Originally Published: April 14, 2014 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Children, staff and parents at Mountain Oak Charter School celebrated good news Friday.
The school, which had been facing the loss of its charter in recent months, learned last week the charter would be renewed for another 20 years. To celebrate the news, teachers, staff, parents and students held an ice cream party Friday afternoon at the end of the school day.
The school's current charter expires Aug. 24, leading many to wonder if the school would reopen after the summer break. In January, it was learned the charter might not be renewed.
The new charter, approved last week by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, is expected to keep the school in business to 2034. Mountain Oak Charter School, located at 1455 Willow Creek Road, offers grades kindergarten through 8th grade. A preschool is also located on site. Currently, about 150 students are enrolled at the school.
Members of the Arizona State Board for Charter School voted not to renew the school's 20-year charter in January. The state board listed a number of factors in that decision, said charter board executive director DeAnna Rowe. Those factors included a decline in academic performance and administrative issues, such as fingerprint clearance card renewals and common core system documentation. The board's decision led school officials to work with an attorney on an appeal process.
Mountain Oak administrators worked with the charter board, as well as with legal counsel, for the recent agreement, said Mountain Oak Director ElizaBeth Wildemann.
"We did a lot of work leading up to this and asked for a hearing," Wildemaan said.
Meanwhile, school officials attended a settlement hearing with the Phoenix-based charter board last month. There they presented board members with paperwork designed to bring the school into compliance with board standards. Wildemaan, who took over as director for Mountain Oak last summer, said those discussions eventually led to the new charter.
Under the terms of the new 20-year charter, Mountain Oak administrators and staff will be closely monitored for the next three years in order to ensure compliance with Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards. Other terms include teacher evaluations and an expected increase in academic performance levels, which Wildemaan said is already underway.
Follow reporter Patrick Whitehurst on Twitter @pwdcourier
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