There are just six contract schools in the state of Colorado, and five of them are located in Delta County. The Vision Home & Community Programs in Delta, the Surface Creek Valley and the North Fork, as well as North Fork Montessori and the Delta Academy of Applied Learning, operate under special waivers from the Colorado Department of Education.
One of those waivers — the requirement for highly qualified teachers as outlined in No Child Left Behind — has the state taking a closer look at the contract school model.
Amy Miller, director of the Surface Creek Vision program, said the CDE is looking specifically at teacher licensure. While not all Vision teachers are licensed, they have demonstrated "subject matter competency." That means a bachelor's degree and 24 hours in the content area they're teaching, explained assistant superintendent Kurt Clay.
North Fork Montessori and the Delta Academy of Applied Learning both have teachers who are considered highly qualified.
The state is also looking at the funding of Vision. In the past, the school district has received full funding for students who are primarily educated by their parents, with oversight from Vision. The school district retains 15 percent for providing insurance and a variety of services, from payroll to special education.
To the state, contract schools are difficult to administer because they're in a gray area. On the other hand, charter schools are well defined by law — and that's the direction Vision Home & Community Program may be headed.
Clay and Miller agree there would be little change in the relationship between the school district and the Vision program.
"The biggest difference is the laws are clearer and it's easier to obtain waivers," Clay said. The school district has sole charter responsibility in Delta County, so a new contract could be very similar to the current arrangement, where a board of stewards oversees operation of the Vision schools.
With about 645 students, the Vision program accounts for roughly 12 percent of student enrollment districtwide.
Several Vision parents, stewards and staff members spoke at last week's school board meeting at Cedaredge Middle School. They emphasized time is of the essence, if conversion to a charter school is to be completed prior to the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
School board members expressed support for the educational alternatives offered by Vision but said they're waiting for final word from the Colorado Department of Education before moving forward with the charter concept.
"As a leadership team and board, we do feel Vision offers a positive opportunity for our students," superintendent Caryn Gibson said.
After the meeting, Clay agreed it will take time to work out the details, but the process of gathering information has already begun. Once word is received from CDE, which should be this week, Vision's board of stewards and the Delta County board of education will have a clearer idea which direction will be best for Vision students.
While one parent wondered if the Vision Home & Community Program would even be in existence next year, Miller said she feels confident the Vision program will continue to operate either as a contract school or a charter school. "I believe the school board supports Vision," she said.blog comments powered by Disqus