BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Public Education Commission is slated to rule on an application submitted by the Polaris committee for a charter school for 6th-8th graders during its two-day meeting Thursday and Friday at Mabry Hall in the Jerry Apodaca Education Building, 300 Don Gaspar in Santa Fe, beginning at 9 a.m.
The application was submitted by the Polaris committee in June and the PEC met in Los Alamos in July to conduct a capacity interview with the committee and hear public input. Since then, a peer review team comprised of a licensed administrator, a licensed teacher, a school business official and a team leader with administration reviewed the application.
The team noted in its report that overall the Polaris application is “complete but inadequate”. It said that in both the review process and the capacity interview, the Polaris team failed to demonstrate the capacity to implement the organizational plan and governance organizational framework and the business plan/financial framework.
“The team is not yet prepared to open a high-quality charter school,” the report stated. “Though the proposal received a score of 85.61 percent, there were three indicators scored as fails (falls far below the criteria) and four responses scored as approaches the criteria in the organizational section. In addition there were nine approaches the criteria ratings for responses to the capacity interview questions,” the report said.
The Polaris application scored 86 percent for the overall application. Under education plan/academic framework, Polaris scored 92 percent. For organizational plan and governance/organizational framework, the score was 85 percent, however the score dropped to 68.2 percent for business plan/financial framework. Polaris scored 100 percent for evidence of support and 84.5 percent for the capacity interview, yielding an overall score of 85.61 percent.
The report said the Charter Schools Division recommends denial of the Polaris application.
“The scoring does not meet the minimum expectations set by the Public Education Commission to enter into an implementation year. However, it is also recommended that the school take the feedback provided via the evaluation process and resubmit a stronger application in 2020,” the report concluded.
The Public Education Commission will take the report into consideration but will ultimately will vote as it pleases. The Polaris team will have another opportunity prior to the PEC decision to address the Commission and answer further questions from PEC members.
The Los Alamos Public Schools board opposed the Polaris application at the July hearing, having opted not to consider it as a district chartered school. Written comments in opposition were also submitted by the district. The Polaris application is a culmination of four years of work by the committee.
If the school is approved by the PEC, Polaris committee members have indicated there will be a planning year and a search for a facility to house the school in hopes of opening in August 2020.