Dist. 300 board gives conditional approval to charter school contract
Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove will be allowed to remain open until Aug. 31, 2020.
The Community Unit District 300 school board Tuesday night voted to unanimously approve the school's contract renewal, provided its management meets certain conditions.
For auditing purposes, the charter school's administration must maintain time and effort logs for employees whose salaries are paid for partly with District 300 taxes for programs in kindergarten through 12th grades, and partly through other funding sources for non-contracted programs, such as after-school, preschool and adult academy, Superintendent Fred Heid said.
The Northern Kane Education Corp., which runs the charter school, originally sought renewal until Aug. 31, 2021, but that language will be removed from the revised charter agreement.
Also, the charter school's new chief executive officer, Sylvia Polletta, and Northern Kane Board Chairwoman Julie Mahaffey must be the only signatories to the charter agreement, per the conditions set by the District 300 board.
The charter school's management has been given a Sept. 9 deadline to meet the following conditions: The signed charter agreement must include earlier outlined changes and final renewal documents must not contain any irrelevant and extraneous material.
Finally, the charter agreement must be certified by the Illinois State Board of Education.
The previous five-year contract for Cambridge Lakes, which opened in 2007, expired at the end of the 2017-18 school year. Charter schools operate within public school districts' boundaries and are funded through property taxes -- and accountable to the districts funding them -- but they are run by a separate, nonelected board and administration.
District 300 board members were conflicted about the vote because of how many issues arose during the renewal process and questions remained whether the school's administration could satisfactorily fix issues identified over the past two years.
The renewal contract includes corrective action plans to resolve issues involving compliance with state and federal requirements for supporting students with disabilities, students in special education, and English-language learners, as well as some financial concerns revealed by audits. It also includes an accountability plan.
"I feel less certain than ever quite frankly that NKEC can do what they need to do in order to continue CLCS the way that we would like it to be continued," board member Kym Garcia said. "Everything about this charter renewal process has been difficult."
Board member Joe Stevens said he would like the NKEC board to undergo training from ISBE to help improve how it functions in future.
"One only has to Google the charter school to find a plethora of stories that can be damaging to the school's reputation," he said. "You have a long way to go ... don't think that it's over."