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Mosier charter school hangs on finances

Finances continue to dominate talks between the Chenowith School Board and a group seeking to turn Mosier Elementary School into a charter school in January 2003.

For the second meeting in a row, the two groups failed to get beyond how much state support money the charter school would receive from District 9. But at least this time each group put a number on the table. After a caucus away from the board, the five members of the charter school committee came up with a “bottom line” number.

Spokesman Wayne Haythorn said that if the charter school receives the full amount now allotted in the budget for the Mosier School (around $566,000) the charter school could give $50,000 back to the district. In addition to the state support money, the charter school group already has received a $50,000 planning grant and has been promised two $150,000 implementation grants over the next two years.

Haythorn said he wanted to stay away from percentages, either of the current budget or of enrollment as calculated for the district by the state. The last estimate from the state puts that at $4,843 per student. Since the charter school would not open until Jan. 27, the two groups may be talking about a half year budget and the return to the district might only be $25,000 for the current school year.

Chenowith Board member Ken Hudson raised the half year funding proposal and Haythorn said that idea seemed reasonable. After the charter group left, the board continued to meet in an open caucus and finally, by consensus came up with an offer.

The charter school would get whatever remains in the Mosier School budget for the 2002-03 year, and out of the grant money the district would get back $34,700. Supt. John Dallum said that should be within just a few percentage points of 50 percent of the total budget since the school year will be about half over come Jan. 27. Board member Ruth Brittle wanted more exact numbers before making any sort of dollar commitment.

The two groups will meet again on Tuesday at 7 p.m. There is a chance that the board might meet earlier than that when some more accurate dollar numbers are available. Putting numbers on the table came at the urging of D-9 board member Wayne Huskey who said that it did not appear much progress was being made and that if the goal was to get the charter school up and going by January, time was running out.

During the meeting there was some mention of even delaying the start-up of the charter school until next year, but that didnÆt go very far. Huskey even mentioned that maybe the two boards should form a committee and meet in smaller groups to try to come up with some kind of money agreement. Brittle said she wanted the D-9 board to work as a whole group as had been agreed earlier, but Huskey said he had changed his mind.

Haythorn said that once the dollar numbers are in agreement, the two groups need to decide on the process of putting a curriculum together and said the teachers at Mosier are being asked to help with that. He said the group is now advertising for a planner to help with this process. Some of the $50,000 planning grant will be used for this. All of the grant money will be channeled through the D-9 office. There was also discussion of what might happen if a January ballot measure fails. Dallum said if that happens it could mean that D-9 will have to cut 14.4 days of school and that could also impact the amount of money the charter school will get.

D-9 Board Chairman Jeff Stranz noted that the charter school group has been talking about enhancing the curriculum at MES, but “we’re not in an enhancement mode ... we’re in a survival mode.”

— The Dalles Chronicle

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