Nonprofit Proposes Chartered Territory

Nonprofit Proposes Chartered Territory

School Board Holds Public Hearing on Charter School

On Tuesday night, the Loudoun County School Board held a public hearing on a charter school application proposed by the Blue Hills Foundation, a Sterling-based nonprofit corporation.

While no Loudoun County residents spoke, Blue Hills Foundation’s Hasan Burk gave a presentation on the proposed alternative to Loudoun County Public Schools.

The publicly-funded, tuition-free, non-selective, non-religious school would offer Loudoun County residents rigorous math, science and college preparatory classes. He highlighted a peer-mentor program, individual attention, small classes, online student progress reports and language classes.

"While a charter school may not be necessary for Loudoun County, how about an option, how about a choice?" Burk said.

The School Board agreed that a charter school could be a positive attribution to the county, so long as it offered something different than the public-school curriculum.

TWO WEEKS AGO, Loudoun County Public School administrators recommended the School Board deny the charter school request. They issued the Blue Hills Foundation a list of 24 questions, which Burk wasn’t prepared to answer during the presentation.

Loudoun County School Board member John Andrews (Potomac) said he agreed with Burke that it is good to provide resident with options. However, he wasn’t impressed with the plan.

"This being the first charter school proposal in Loudoun County, I was really hoping for a lot more," Andrews said.

Burk’s presentation didn’t convince School Board member J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) either.

The Blue Hills Foundation defines its mission to provide a sound foundation in science, mathematics and technology to a diverse population in an enriched environment and to boost the number of students to be placed in higher education institutions, in its application.

"I do not believe you have any idea what courses are actually taught in the 10 Loudoun County Public Schools high schools or any concept of AP [Advanced Placement] courses," Geurin said.

Geurin pointed out that 43.46 percent of white students, 20 percent of Hispanic students, 21.8 percent of black students and 49.3 percent of Asian students are enrolled in AP courses. Fifty-one percent of Loudoun County public high-school students graduated with advanced placement degrees.

"What evidence do you have to convince anyone that we are not currently serving students who desire to enroll in AP courses?" he asked.

Burk said the proposal was based on 2003 records, before the Dominion High School Science Academy was built.

Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick disagreed with Burk stating that Loudoun County Public Schools have always offered rigorous math, science and college preparatory classes.

"We’ve had college preparatory programs since 1963 when I was a student in this school system," Hatrick said, "and it has been in place ever since."

SCHOOL BOARD Chairman Robert Dupree (Dulles) asked Burk when the Blue Hills Foundation would be prepared to answer questions.

Burk said he would get back to the board at the end of July.

Hatrick said he appreciated the School Board’s patience with the Blue Hills Foundation, but feared the staff was spending too much time on the application. He said the Blue Hills Foundation has neglected to answer the fundamental question, "What is missing from the public-school program that the charter school can offer?"

Hatrick said he thinks there has to be a line drawn "to the amount of time we can divert from the public-education system."

"We expect the application to come back A.S.A.P., Dupree said.