Charter group leader talks about Elgin school's progress
The group opening an Elgin charter school is close to finalizing a contract to hire a principal, officials said.
In October, a state panel sanctioned the Elgin Math and Science Academy charter school primarily to serve at-risk students in the area. The decision reversed Elgin Area School District U-46's denial of the proposal in June.
The academy is scheduled to open in August under state oversight. Its leaders plan to have 200 students in kindergarten to third grade the first year, adding grades each year through eighth grade. Enrollment will be capped at 400 by the fifth year.
Kerin Kelly, an estate lawyer and president of the Elgin Charter School Initiative, recently provided an update on the school's progress:
Q. Who will be principal?
Kelly: We have agreed to wait until (later this month) to announce the name. She has 11 years' experience, is an award-winning principal of an Illinois school district and will start Jan. 15. The salary range is $105,000 to $115,000.
Q. Who will manage the school?
Kelly: We have seven members on the board. They are all community leaders. They represent multiple fields: business and finance, education, arts and design, marketing, and legal professions. We would like 11 board members.
Q. Any financing issues?
Kelly: For this first planning year, we have $150,000 in expenses planned. The charter group is promised $950,000 in federal reimbursements for initial startup costs associated with the facility's opening, planning, program design and implementation of the expeditionary learning model. Salaries for an interim chief financial officer, special education consultant and principal will be paid for through the grant. The state will pay 100 percent of tuition costs -- roughly $10,300 per student -- plus categorical funding, such as special education and Title I funds for low-income students, for a total budget of roughly $2.1 million yearly. Operational costs are expected to be $4.8 million at full enrollment. The group also has been preapproved for an up to $200,000 line of credit from Triumph Bank in Elgin.
Q. When will you begin hiring teachers, school staff and support personnel?
Kelly: That starts as soon as the principal comes on board. We have been getting a lot of resumes for teachers and some of our leadership team. The leadership team will comprise a bilingual coordinator, special education director, chief financial officer and an instructional coach. Hiring of a social worker and classroom teachers will be done in the first quarter of the year, with teachers starting in June. We also are going to hire an outreach coordinator to recruit prospective families, and who will be fluent in Spanish. Job descriptions and applications are available at elginmathandscience.org. Teachers will undergo five days of training on expeditionary learning curriculum in July.
Q. How are you reaching out to prospective students?
Kelly: We've been going to events ... Boys & Girls Club of Elgin and Salvation Army holiday events. We will be at Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. We are focusing our outreach in places where at-risk families are found. We plan to have an open house in February. We will be at the Gail Borden Public Library preschool fair Jan. 20. Our big push is to get all 300 pre-enrolled families to register online. April 4 is when they have to have their registration on paper or online. April 11 is our lottery date.
Q. The school site is the former Fox River Country Day School campus on Dundee Avenue, leased from the city of Elgin. What needs to be done to get it ready?
Kelly: Architect Eric Pepa has been drawing plans for classroom buildings. They are pricing out the cost of repairs now. Everything will be well within $200,000 or less for renovations of the Neill building. Built in 2005, the building houses 13 classrooms. The school might utilize other buildings on campus, including a dining hall, administration building, field house, and gymnasium that require substantial repairs. ... We would love to get that art barn operational in the first year or two. Needed repairs are estimated to cost $200,000. We are fundraising. We have a Mardi Gras fundraiser 7 p.m. Feb. 24, at the Dream Hall, 51 S. Grove Ave., Elgin. This is going to be focused on startup costs (with) a goal of $5,000.