Sign up for our newsletter
Home » CER in the News » Casper charter school proponents deliver application to school board

Casper charter school proponents deliver application to school board

Share This Story

By Nick Balatsos
Casper Star Tribune
February 24, 2015

Tiffany Leary has her fingers crossed.

She recently delivered an 870-page application to the Natrona County Board of Trustees that, if approved, would allow her to create the county’s first charter school.

The Guild Charter School would be another option for K-8 Casper students who want a challenging learning environment. It would offer individualized learning programs and a unique curriculum, Leary said.

Parents who support the school say it could benefit the community by serving a niche of students who score high on IQ tests, but don’t meet the threshold for acceptance into the district’s gifted and talented program.

But Leary clarified the school would be open to anyone.

The school would be publicly funded and independently run and would operate under a contract, or charter, outlining its mission, just as the four other charter schools in the state do.

During a trustees meeting Monday, Leary plopped a heavy black binder containing the school’s application in front of Superintendent Steve Hopkins for consideration.

Now, she has to wait.

Hopkins said he and the board will take a month to look over the application and make sure all the required components are present.

A review team will be formed and given the resources they need, including access to people at the Wyoming Department of Education who are more familiar with charter schools, he said.

Once the application is considered complete, the board has 60 days to approve or deny it, according to state law. Within the first 30 days, a public forum must be held to gauge community support.

Hopkins said the district has had people in the past express interest in starting a charter school, but as far as he remembers, this is the furthest anyone has gotten in the process.

Leary, a Casper parent, and her friend Wendolyn McGregor, an instructional facilitator and former gifted and talented coordinator for the school district, started working on the application in September after delivering a letter to the board of trustees, letting them know their plans for the school.

Now the application has been delivered, some would say the duo faces an uphill battle in Wyoming. The state’s laws on charter schools have been ranked consistently among the worst in the country by advocacy groups.

The Center for Education Reform and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools have both criticized the state’s laws regarding what agency can approve a charter school.

In Wyoming, since 1995, the local school board is the only agency that can approve a new charter. In other states, universities, private organizations or state charter commissions approve the schools.

A bill introduced this year might have improved those rankings.

Rep. Sue Wilson, R-Laramie, sponsored a bill that would have given the community college commission authorizing authority, but it failed to earn a committee’s endorsement.

Some see the current set-up as a conflict of interest, forcing local districts to make a decision that could result in fewer students.

Hopkins said he has “heard that debate” and has chosen “not to weigh into it,” but he assured the group’s application would get a fair review.

“These folks have worked hard on the application. They deserve to have a thorough review,” he said.

During the meeting, several parents spoke in favor of the new charter school.

For Travis Dunn, a parent of 10 children of ranging intellect, the school would provide a unique place to learn. He said the public schools aren’t cutting it for his child.

Similarly, Andrea Harrington called the school “a new paradigm” for Casper.

“We just need another opportunity to offer (our kids),” she said.

Students at the school would attend classes four days a week. The shorter week could reduce costs and result in fewer missed days for students, according to the school. For teachers, the extra day off could also allow for more planning time.

The school will offer a challenging curriculum, small class sizes and strength- and experiential-based learning to set it apart from the district.