Moyer Charter School co-founder says "We gotta sue"

    The director and co-founder of the Maurice J. Moyer Academy Charter School says he’ll go to court to fight the Delaware Department of Education’s decision not to renew the school’s charter.

    The director and co-founder of the Maurice J. Moyer Academy Charter School says he’ll go to court to fight the Delaware Department of Education’s decision not to renew the school’s charter.

    “We gotta sue,”  Theopalis Gregory, director of Maurice J. Moyer Academy Charter School, said.

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    “We’ve got to do something to get back in front of that board and ask the board reconsider its decision, and we’re hopeful the board will do the right thing and allow Moyer to stay open so we can be the institution in this community that we can be,” Gregory said.

    Delaware’s State Board of Education voted last Thursday not to renew the charter for Maurice J. Moyer Academy Charter School, as recommended by Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery with guidance from the Charter School Accountability Committee.

    So, the charter school that just opened its doors on 17th Street in Wilmington in 2006 will have to shut down after this school year. It currently serves 484 students in grades 6-12.  Gregory says the school, which was approved for enrollment for up to 530 students, has a list of 75-100 students interested in attending Moyer.

    “We have a commendable rating, we have people in droves trying to get in here,” Gregory said. “We have all the challenges of an inner city urban school, yet we’re doing well,”

    As required by law for all Delaware charter schools, Moyer Academy had applied for its five-year renewal in October, 2009.   Schools must meet 14 criteria in order for the charter to be considered for renewal.

    The Department of Education says the Charter School Accountability Committee started meeting with Moyer Academy representatives in November 2009 to discuss the charter renewal process.

    In December, 2009 the CSAC drafted a preliminary report citing  numerous deficiencies including student performance, curriculum, and the number of highly qualified teachers.  At that time the CSAC made the recommendation not to renew the charter.

    Moyer filed a response to those findings in January, but following another meeting and public hearing, the CSAC stood by its recommendation not to renew Moyer’s charter.

    “The process for evaluating charter schools is delineated in DDOE regulation,” Dr. Lillian Lowery, Secretary of Delaware’s Department of Education, said.  “There are three steps in the process:  data review, public hearing, and recommendation by the Charter School Accountability Committee to the Secretary; data review and recommendation of the Secretary to the State Board of Education; and State Board data review and action based on the recommendation from the Secretary.  All three entities came to the same conclusion that closing the Moyer Academy under the current governance structure would be in the best interest of the students,” Lowery said.

    Gregory acknowledges issues with curriculum fell through the cracks, but wishes the Department of Education would have worked with him to come up with a plan and procedure to correct the problem.

    “As the ultimate supervisor, I  take responsibility because I entrusted someone who had the credentials, and at the end of the day, I didn’t inspect it as well as I should have as far as where our curriculum was.”

    For now, Moyer will continue teaching students, and must administer the Delaware Student Testing Program.

    “We’ve grown the kids,” Gregory said. “Some (test scores) have grown, some have flattened out, some have fallen down because of the severe circumstances we’re working with in modular trailers. But we’ve grown the kids in terms of character and reputation and the scores are going to grow in future years.”

    Charter schools first opened in Delaware in 1996 with the Charter School of Wilmington and The Positive Outcomes Charter School in Dover.

    There are currently 18 charter schools in Delaware with three more scheduled to open this fall for the 2010-2011 school year.

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