The board that runs The Friends of King Schools met for about an hour Tuesday to discuss new student grade-level expectations, new donations and special education updates for the charter-management organization’s two schools.
The board also heard public comment from The Lens Editor Steve Beatty, who said that the board had again failed to comply with the state’s Open Meetings Law.
Before the board called its meeting to order, it heard presentations from students who were showcasing work learned in alignment with the Common Core State Standards, new academic standards for students that schools across the country are implementing. Among other changes in instruction, King students taking English will study texts throughout the year in line with a particular theme, rather than at random, staff explained.
Charter board president Hilda Young said the presentations would be ongoing, as a way of showing the board how the students are adjusting to the new material. Educators have widely acknowledged that Common Core expectations and test questions are more rigorous than current standards.
After hearing from the students and acknowledging their work, the board made a motion to approve its minutes, and then heard comment from Beatty, who said that neither the last meeting nor this meeting was properly noticed in accordance with state law.
The state’s Open Meetings Law requires that public bodies inform the public of their meetings 24 hours in advance, and send notice – which includes a meeting agenda – to any member of the news media who requests it. The board also is supposed to post a notice, complete with the meeting agenda, on the door of the meeting location at least 24 hours before the meeting.
The Lens has repeatedly asked that Friends of King send an agenda along with its meeting notices. In recent months, Tracie Washington and Henry Julien, attorneys for the board, have both agreed that the organization would provide notice. On a forwarded email Washington sent to The Lens a day before the meeting, it gives the meeting location and time, but doesn’t include an agenda. And a notice posted outside the school building Tuesday also didn’t have an agenda.
“This is an exceedingly simple thing to rectify,” Beatty told the board. “We are desperately trying to reach a cooperative and mutually beneficial agreement. I would urge your careful consideration and deferral of the minutes until you set this right.”
When board member Kenya Rounds, a local attorney, asked Washington if the board should go into executive session to discuss Beatty’s comment and the board’s compliance with the law, Washington said they could not.
“The issue he has raised, it is his understanding of what is proper notice,” she said. “And I am very comfortable with you all taking a vote on the approval of these minutes.”
Washington said Beatty should have raised the issue with Julien, who was not at the meeting. The board subsequently voted to approve the minutes.
In other news, the network will be sending all high-school students who score a 25 or higher on the ACT to New York, through the help of a private donor, Chief Executive Officer Doris Roché-Hicks said. Another donor will pay for students to go see “The Butler” on Thursday. Students will have to write an essay on what they learned, according to note sheet provided by high school principal Lindsey Moore.
A special education update revealed Joseph A. Craig Charter School has 59 special-education students, with 25 to 30 more in the evaluation stage. There were 49 special-education students classified as such last year, but “a lot of special ed students were not accounted for last year,” Craig Principal Ora Wiley said.
Friends of King officials have repeatedly said that they were not given enough funding for special-education students they serviced when they took over Craig, because many of those students were not properly classified, and evaluations are costly. Last year, board members blamed a $671,000 end-of-year deficit at Craig on special education and transportation costs.
The next board meeting is Nov. 12, at noon, at King.
Steve Beatty contributed reporting on the special-education student figures.
An earlier version of this story mischaracterized Washington’s comments, saying that she had “refused” to go into executive session. In fact, Washington advised the board that it could not go into executive session to discuss a particular topic.