Update: Comments from Charter Schools USA and Margie Orr have been added at the bottom of this post.
At last night’s York City School Board meeting, questions came up surrounding a nonprofit entity that would be the charter holder if the school district’s buildings were turned into charter schools run by Charter Schools USA.
Charter schools in Pennsylvania have to be nonprofits. (They can then contract with other companies, which can be for-profit.)
What do we know about the nonprofit board?
On Sunday I reported that recovery officer David Meckley said there was a nonprofit corporation, called York Community Foundation Charter School, established with three inaugural board members: president Carl Anderson, Jody Keller, secretary, and Ernie Waters, treasurer. Meckley said last night that the entity is incorporated.
On Friday, I spoke to Anderson, of West Manchester Township, who said representatives of Charter Schools USA reached out to him and others looking for community members who might serve on a nonprofit board. He also said he was on the York County Community Foundation’s board and a member of YorkCounts, which was behind the initial all-charter idea.
Anderson told me those three individuals were the only ones affiliated with the nonprofit.
Meckley said the three inaugural members would select additional board members as bylaws are prepared.
What’s the York County Community Foundation’s role?
Given the name of the nonprofit, I called the York County Community Foundation.
“We’ve been helpful in working with hosting meetings of community leaders and personnel from the charter schools to show them the community leadership in York was strongly behind the all-charter methodology of improving academic performance,” Bill Hartman, president and CEO of the York County Community Foundation said Tuesday. He, too, noted that the foundation and YorkCounts initially recommended the model.
Hartman said the foundation made some recommendations about who might be a nonprofit board member and worked with several of the charter operators that applied.
Some have questioned whether anyone on the charter board lives in the city, and Meckley said last night he didn’t think any of the three inaugural members do.
“I think the most important thing to be taken into consideration is the capability and credibility of the individuals on the board and the skill sets they bring to this initiative,” Hartman said Tuesday when asked about that concern. “Carl Anderson, Jody Keller and Ernie Waters, all three are proven community leaders with good track records (of) providing the kind of leadership that’s going to be needed for us to improve academic peroformance of York City schools.”
Hartman said the community foundation would not be involved in any way with the management or operation of the schools but would be willing to provide support or advice if asked.
The charter name reflects that foundation’s support for the process throughout and that the foundation is sponsoring the entity’s nonprofit application, he said, but he thinks the name will be changed to something broader in the future.
Richard Page, executive vice president of development for Charter Schools USA, said the board members are “independent community leaders who want to vol their time to govern the schools.”
They were identified through conversations in the community, with the recovery officer and the district, he said. The company explained its goals, he said, but the board members are “completely independent of us.”
“These are community leaders who are willing to put their experience and reputation on the line to oversee these schools,” he said.
Margie Orr, president of the York City School Board, believes the nonprofit board should contain city residents, saying it’s otherwise “totally overlooking the taxpayers who fund our children’s education.”