Kindergarten student should not be retained, relative tells Pride College Prep leaders

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One family member of a Pride College Prep student believes the shuttering charter school failed her nephew — and she’s looking to the school’s principal for answers.

Brandy Thomas, the aunt of a kindergarten student who was denied promotion into first grade, appeared at the school’s board of directors meeting Tuesday to air her grievances.

Thomas said that the school’s founder and director, Michael Richard, held her nephew back because that student did not pass a Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress (STEP) test, made for children deemed high risk academically. She said she understands the rules for pupil progression, but she thinks other factors should have been taken into consideration.

“The subjective part comes in when he’s not given the opportunity to take a math test because he’s not in an environment that’s conducive to learning,” she said.

“Could the teachers could have done more? Of course. Could we have done more? Of course,” Thomas continued. “But at the end of the day he shouldn’t be held responsible for it. Every kid is not the same.”

The board agreed to look into Thomas’s complaint – but they would have to hurry, board chairman Allen Square said, since Richard only holds his title as school leader until the end of the month.

Pride College Prep’s charter was not renewed by the state in December, and leaders are preparing to hand over Mildred Osborne Charter School, as it will be called, to ARISE Academy leaders on July 1.

The school had an “F” on its last report card.

Richard will continue to attend meetings, however, until the charter dissolves for good, and he promised at the board meeting to look into Thomas’ complaint.

Thomas said that the child has some other issues that she thinks should have been addressed in order for him to best succeed as a student. She said neither she nor the child’s guardian ever got a pupil progression plan or an intervention plan for the student.

“We didn’t receive any type of checklist saying we should do this or we should do that,” Thomas said, adding that the students’ math scores declined regularly as the school year went on, and his teachers reported behavioral issues and problems with following the rules.

“It’s typical for a kid who has struggled,” Thomas said.

According to Thomas, the child’s guardian had asked his teacher if he needed special counseling – but was told no.

“With her professional knowledge of him, she indicated that there was no need for that and he was progressing and he would be fine,” Thomas said.

At the meeting, Square said that the board takes complaints very seriously, and personally promised to work with both the child’s family and Richard to review the files to re-examine whether or not the child was appropriately evaluated.

“I’m glad to see that there’s a family advocating for a child,” Square said. “And I appreciate that. We’re going to do our due diligence on this.”

He said that he didn’t know whether or not there was a process for guardians to go through in order to challenge whether or not a pupil should be retained, but that he’d look into it. Richard said that the first step would be for the child’s guardian to put the request in writing.

Later in the meeting, board member Sam Joel reiterated the importance of responding to the family’s request.

“To me, this is one of the most important things of the closeout,” Joel said to Richard. “Your initial judgment is what it is, but I ask that you follow up with this.”

Richard said again that he would, but added that the school has “really clear guidelines” for whether or not the student is ready for the next grade.

He said in the past he had advised families to address grievances also with the next incoming administration, who would be in a better position to take action.

The rest of the board meeting was dedicated largely to discussion about how to close out the school.

Officially, 46 percent of the school’s staff is returning to Arise next year, Richard said.

Richard said that he was proud of what the staff had done to set up for Arise to take over, including bringing the third- through fifth-grade reading and math scores to 62 percent, from 26 percent when they took over in 2008.

“I’m really disappointed with the outcome, but proud of the gains we made,” Richard said.

The school’s director of finance and operations, Simone Green, will stay on a contract basis in order engage an attorney during the school’s close-out.

The board anticipates having its last meeting in October. They’re going to figure out what to do with the remaining money in their funds once an audit is completed in July, Square added.

July and September board meetings will be held by phone.

The school’s projected fund balance as of the end of June is $251,929.

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