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Guardian Academy Founders: 'We're not Taking Away from Peekskill Schools'

The organizers of the proposed Guardian Academy Charters School in Peekskill answered questions during a public session Tuesday. The state isn't expected to make decision on the proposal until later this summer.

The founding board of the proposed Guardian Academy Charter School in Peekskill wants to make one thing clear.

If their proposal gets approved by the state, the school will not be in competition with the Peekskill school district for funding.

“The dollars follow the child,” said Audrey Warn, one of the members of the school’s board members. “The district doesn’t have a monopoly of those funds. They follow the child. We’re not taking away from anything. In fact, if people avail themselves to the charter school, there is even some money that’s given back to the school district in the form of transitional aid.”

The school’s budget is determined by the amount of students who enroll, Warn said.

Warn and the other members of school’s founding board cleared up this, and other questions, during a public information session that was held on Tuesday.

About 60 people attended the session and organizers said more forums will be planned throughout the year.

The proposed charter school, which officials announced earlier this month, would be situated inside the Assumption school, which is closing at the end of this school year. The charter school, if it receives state approval, would be open during the 2014-2015 school year.

To start, the academy would open with grades K-3, with each grade containing two classes with about 25 students apiece. An additional grade level would be added each year following the school’s opening, with the eighth grade being the highest grade level.

Students would be picked using a lottery system. Local students would get chosen first, but students from surrounding school districts would receive consideration if there is still space available.

There will be ELL teachers on staff at the school.

“The school will be open to all, but we recognize that the ELL (English language learner) community is one of the larger populations we can serve,” Warn said. “After ascertaining the needs of the community, we decided that having an ELL teacher would be beneficial. But the school is open to all.”

The state will make decision on the Guardian Academy in the late summer. If the school is approved, the officials will receive a federal grant to help them get started.

Any improvements or repairs needed at the Assumption school building will be relayed to the Guardian school officials during the state’s review process.

To date, 244 charter schools have been given the go-ahead to open in this state as of January. The Amani Public Charter School in Mount Vernon and the Charter School of Educational Excellence in Yonkers are the only two charter schools in Westchester County that are currently open.

“I really hope that they can get the proposal approved,” said Ricardo Ordonez, who attended Tuesday’s forum. “My son is in pre-k now. I understand it’s limited and that’s concern. We hope everything works out OK.”

Alex Scott, a parent of a former Assumption School student, likes the idea of a charter school being formed. He believes it’s essential for parents to have a choice in where they’d like to send their children. He also believes that administrative boards for charter schools are more accountable to the wishes of the parents

“Once you have a little more power on a decision on where you can send your child, I think that’s the only thing you need,” Scott said. “I don’t care if the taxes are raised or increased, because you know it’s going to support the school.”

Marcela Bobe, who has child In the Peekskill school district, worries that the charter school will take some resources away from the Peekskill school district.

“You need principal for the charter school and you need teachers and a psychologist,” Bobe said. “It takes away money that can be used in school district…and the public isn’t going to be able to vote on the charter school’s budget.”

For further information on Guardian Academy, email guardianacademypeekskill@gmail.com.

Dutch February 28, 2013 at 10:54 PM
“The dollars follow the child,” said Audrey Warn, one of the members of the school’s board members. “The district doesn’t have a monopoly of those funds. They follow the child. We’re not taking away from anything. In fact, if people avail themselves to the charter school, there is even some money that’s given back to the school district in the form of transitional aid.” We already are being forced to reopen Uriah Hill and what expense! The taxpayers of the city cannot afford this building also. What they propose is duplication of services that are already available to the children of this city. This Charter School is an attempt at keeping the parish of Assumption alive. When the school closes in June some students will go to other catholic schools and perhaps join the parish of those schools. That is what these people are trying to stop. And of course Assumption will run their CCD program somewhere in that buidling after school hours. I belong to Assumption but I cannot afford additional expense that this Charteer School will create. I want to know the bottom line..How much will it cost me a year to fund this school..give me numbers and perhaps they may be able to sway me. And for Mr. Scott...you can make our school board accountable...go to the meetings, speak up. Ask questions, provide imput! Starting another school is not the answer!
joshua tanner February 28, 2013 at 10:58 PM
"Local students would get chosen first" What about actual American Citizens - do they get considered over the non-citizen interlopers? I would rather see a citien who isn't local get a shot instead of the sizable local invading force that overwhelms Woodside unexpectedly in the fall.
Silent Majority February 28, 2013 at 11:23 PM
STOP THE PRESSES! "Students would be picked using a lottery system. Local students would get chosen first, but students from surrounding school districts would receive consideration if there is still space available." ARE YOU SERIOUS!?!! Children from other school districts will be coming to Peekskill at the tax payers expense?!?!!?!? I AM AGAINST THIS! MY TAXES ARE TOOOOOOOO HIIGGGHHH!!!
Silent Majority February 28, 2013 at 11:30 PM
A national study conducted by Stanford University economist Margaret Raymond found that 37% of charter schools got worse results than comparable neighborhood public schools, 46% did about the same and only 17% were superior to the local public schools. The Raymond study surveyed half the charter schools in the nation and more than 70% of all charter school students. Raymond said, "If this study shows anything, it shows that we've got a 2-to-1 margin of bad charters to good charters." Unlike the Hoxby study, the Raymond study concluded: "This study reveals in unmistakable terms that, in the aggregate, charter students are not faring as well as their TPS [traditional public school] counterparts. Further, tremendous variation in academic quality among charters is the norm, not the exception. The problem of quality is the most pressing issue that charter schools and their supporters face." Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/charter-school-problem-results-positive-new-study-suggests-article-1.405678#ixzz2MEupBc3v
Branwen MacDonald March 01, 2013 at 12:21 AM
How does the state decide whether to allow a charter school? Where can a person or community give their input?
Dutch March 01, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Great question Branwen! Have to research that. Silent Majority if a child from another district is enrolled in this school his home district will pay the PCSD tuition. I do fear that it will take an large amount of tax dollars to bring Assumtion school up to current state standards. And I am also concerned about the heating costs. You have two buldings to heat..the annex and the floors above the church. How do you go about splitting the heating costs. I am not about to have my tax dollars heat the church..my donation to the parish already takes care of that. And is the building really handicapped accessible??? Lots of questions that need to be asked.
Dutch March 01, 2013 at 12:50 AM
Gee I guess is may be an additional reason why Ms. Warn is working so hard to get this as a charter school!!! "4. What is the founding group? The founding group is a group of individuals who have come together to develop and present the proposal to establish the school. As such, they act as representatives for the proposed school prior to approval and issuance of the charter. Subsequent to the issuance of the charter, founding group members may become members of the board of trustees, may become employees of the school or may not continue to be involved with the school."
Dutch March 01, 2013 at 12:55 AM
Another question: Is the charter school going to lease the building from the Assumption Church!!! "29. Can charter schools use funds to lease facilities? Yes. Charter schools may use per pupil funding (charter school basic tuition) to pay for lease payments, mortgage payments, rents and other operational costs bundled or associated with these facilities payments. However, the charter school may not use per pupil funding to directly pay for construction costs."
Dutch March 01, 2013 at 01:02 AM
http://www.p12.nysed.gov/psc/about.html
Mike Morey March 01, 2013 at 01:06 AM
This piece is so one sided and barely scratches the surface of the questions that were posed that night to the "board" many of which were not answered by the board. This is hardly representative of what transpired at that meeting and doesn't even discuss the numerous question that were raised with respect to the per pupil cost, the entry of a significantly higher number of students to the school district, the costs associated with anicillary services the local district would be required to provide, or concerns about accountability to parents and taxpayers, to say nothing of the leasing arrangement tax payers would finance to Assumption Church. It's vital that a full airing of this issues be presented by press outlets because the notion that the full coat of educating a child is simply transferred in its entirety to he new school is false.
Dutch March 01, 2013 at 01:29 AM
Mike thank you for sharing that. I was unable to make the meeting and am happy to hear that questions are being raised
Mike Morey March 01, 2013 at 02:02 AM
Both my wife and I attended the meeting with an open mind. We don't oppose the idea of charter schools and would consider the option. However, the was so little knowledge about the operation and costs associated with running the school that we were left deeply troubled. For starters, the organizers didn't know that they are not permitted to use pupil costs that are granted by the state for capital improvements to the facility. The organizers made the case that per pupil funding follows the child, which is does, but in a charter school, the pupil cost is reduced by roughly 20% yet the services that the district provides, like psychologists, special Ed, and busing, are required to be made available to students in the charter school from the district, so the is a total net loss of funding, but the same level of service is required. That difference has to be made up and it will be in the form of additional costs built into the district's budget. There is the assumption that all of the students who attended Assumption School would naturally enter the Peekskill City School District since the parochial school is now clossed and so therefore the district will bear the burden of the cost of these new children anyway. That's a false assumption. But with a charter, you can rest assured that many of the parents who would otherwise look for parochial school options, say at St. Columbanus, will enroll their children in the Peekskill City Schools (continued)
Mike Morey March 01, 2013 at 02:03 AM
Hardly any of this was discussed or considered, and it was apparent that a great number of board members didn't know the answer to most of these issues. Instead it was wholly presented as a "choice" for people in the district. I understand the Assumption Church now has a piece of real estate it needs to do something with and has a net loss of revenue and I understand there are concerns over performance in the Peekskill City Schools. Rest assured, as parents in this district we have been vocal with the Peekskill City School District Administration and Board of Education. We are very big fans of accountability. But thus far, we have found the folks behind this effort, while well intentioned, to be ill informed about some of the basics of establishing a charter school or considerate of the district wide implications.
Joe Shmoe March 01, 2013 at 02:55 AM
As a charter school the student from outside the district would come with money. I have no children in the school district so maybe I shouldn't have to pay any taxes. And compared to most other Westchester municipalities the taxes are pretty low...oh wait...we're talking school district...I agree those are too high. City taxes I can't complain compared to where I used to live.
Dutch March 01, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Mike thank you so much for your imput on this topic. What is sad for me is that PCSD meetings come and go and very few if any taxpayers and parents attend them. We are in the midst of budget planning for next year and people are not speaking up. There are way to many followers in this community..they will jump on any bandwagon to avoid speaking out themselves. Hopefully over time our questions will be answered.
Branwen MacDonald March 01, 2013 at 01:34 PM
Mike that was all very informative, thank you. I had thought the meeting was more for people looking to send their children to the Guardian school, but I'll attend future meetings as they seem to be the way community members can get information and ask questions. I agree with all your concerns and more - if a charter school wants to come in and compete with our public schools, I have a lot of concerns about what would unfold - but at the very least I'd like to see the Charter offering an amazing new option for families. I don't get the feeling that is what's being offered here. It seems more like Guardian would work well for the people they already served when it was a private school, but now payment would come from our public school budget, and there would be a duplication of services and drain on resources.
theobserver March 01, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Agreed. Overtime our questions will be answered. Overtime and if approved, the education and expenses for this new Charter School will, in many ways, be compared to Peekskills current public school system and I believe competition is good. The intention to adapt to a new Charter school is good for our children and is a better alternate than another vacant building in the Downtown.
Kirsten Berger March 01, 2013 at 02:17 PM
The answer to question number 4 can be found here: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/psc/documents/guardian-academy-charter-school-of-peekskill-redacted.pdf There are 3 members in the founding group. One is Audrey Warn, who is currently working for the Assumption School. Another is Father John Higgins, the priest. The third is a public school principal. There are 6 on the initial Board of trustees. One is Father Higgins, one is Audrey Warn, one is assistant principal at a parochial school, two work in public schools and one is studying to be a CPA. SInce Father Higgins is involved with this, I'm not buying the argument this charter isn't going to be another Assumption School. I may wrong, but Audrey Warn is probably trying to get herself another job in the same place she has been working for a while.
sayitsnotsojack March 01, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Why would anyone fight to have his child attend Peekskill schools? If I had a child school age I would do anything and everything to have it stay out of Peekskills' abysmal school system. I know there are teachers in Peekskill who sent their children to other schools rather than have them in Peekskill.
steph March 01, 2013 at 05:31 PM
The charter school would be a duplication of services. Peekskill taxpayers already pay for psychologist, counselors, teachers, principals, etc. Why would you pay for the same thing twice? At a time were municipalities are consolidating services to save money, this charter school initiative does not make sense. It appears that the parents of assumption school cannot accept the schools closing. They want the tax payers of Peekskill to pay for their children to attend private school. I urge all city residents to stop complaining about taxes going up and attend these meetings. It is time for everyone to take a stand and let officials know that we will not tolerate a charter school. If you want your children to attend private school, pay for it like everyone else.
Mary Jane March 01, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Bingo, Jack! Not to mention sitting school board members who haven't and don't send their own children through this school system. @Steph: Get real, Peekskill taxpayers are being swindled. Don't even get me started on the counselors and teachers. They're making headlines lately, aren't they? Four counselors and one teacher (so far, stay tuned) on paid-leave for their high-jinks. That you'll tolerate?
sayitsnotsojack March 01, 2013 at 08:04 PM
In the Peekskill schools 166 people make above $100,000 for working 180 days a year.With about 30 more making between $80,000 and $100,000. Do you think the public is getting thier monies worth? You and others should be taking a stand against the waste and lack of performance in Peekskill schools. Just look at their mismangement of Uriah Hill for what they are going to cost the taxpayers you can have two charter schools with the possibilty of much better education.
Dutch March 01, 2013 at 09:16 PM
The PCSD has over 600 employees. Do you have any idea how many hours at night and on weekends and even over the summer that teacher works. Teachers at the high school level teach over 100 students day. They have to grade homework assignments and tests. They also have to plan their classes. Spend a day in on of the schools and walk a teachers steps before you question the amount of money they are paid. The biggest hurdle that this district faces is uninvolved parents and parents who cannot speak, read or write in english. And not every child born is meant to be a well performing student. Students underachieve for multiple reasons!
Silent Majority March 02, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Dutch, you are absolutely right! I support our PCSD teachers! They are some of the hardest working people in our City & not only work during school hours but spend hundreds of hours throughout a school year working "off hours" to grade homework, tests, read essays & papers, create lessons, the list goes on. Many times people forget that teachers work after hours just to get school related work done & sacrifice their own family time just to get that work done. In addition, Teachers cannot work without getting a highly expensive education & certification. Many of them have to pay off their bachelors degree as well as a masters degree. If teachers want a raise, they have to go back to school to take more graduate education level classes which continues in a cycle of debt. You hit the nail on the head when you stated that the biggest problem in our district is uninvolved parents. Many times the only time a parent gets involved in the students education is when their student gets in trouble or when they feel the BOE or school has wronged their son/daughter. That is usually the only time that people go to the BOE meetings & get involved. As you watch the BOE meetings their are usually no parents that show up unless their children are performing for the school board at the Admin. Bldg.
Silent Majority March 02, 2013 at 04:32 PM
It is also interesting to note that students are sent to school on a daily basis not only to get educated but many of the teachers are there virtually helping to raise our Cities children. Many times, students spend more time in school than they do with their families as they are there all day & sometimes even after school. This is a result of our modern society where moms & dads have to work in order to pay their bills. Many of the young men & women look up to the teachers at the middle & high school & use them as a positive role models & look up to their teachers.
Dutch March 02, 2013 at 05:53 PM
So glad to see that Silent Majority understands what a teacher does goes wel beyond the school day along with what we do for the children emotionaly and financialy. Students donate clothing, food and money to the disadvantaged students. Recently when 5 families where burn out of their homes district employees in all the buildings donated money, clothing and household goods to these families. Schools cannot meet every need that a child has but I know that PCSD does try!
Suzanne DiMicco March 05, 2013 at 02:10 AM
An excellent school is always a benefit to the community whether it's parochial, public or private. Since the money from other communities would be able to go to the school, why not just go for it and make a 100% ELL school for all sorrounding communities,too?
Dutch March 06, 2013 at 12:52 AM
Am pretty sure that Peekskill would have no problem filling this school with their own ELL students. But we already have ELL programs in our schools. So no need to replicate services that we already have. I have looked at the Charter School application and I honestly dont see anything that tells me it will be an outstanding school.
Kirsten Berger March 10, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Sayitsnotsojack, since you do not have children in the schools, how can you make that comment? Do the teachers you have spoken to live in Peekskill and opted to have their kids enrolled in private schools? Or do these teachers live in other districts and have decided to enroll their kids in their home districts? Not all districts allow faculty to send their kids to the schools they teach in for free if they are out of district. My husband teaches in another district, one that is in some ways better than Peekskill and is in a wealthy teon and it would still cost us $12K per child to send them to the district he teaches in. Our kids go to the Peekskill Schools, and while there are things I wish could be different, my kids are learning and I, as a citizen, don't just sit on my butt waiting for problems to solve themselves. We all can and should go to school board meetings if we have ideas and concerns, instead of just assuming things will never get better.
Jennifer Ciavirella January 07, 2014 at 10:56 AM
So very interesting to read everyone's comments- a lot of good questions being asked, but as someone who has been involved in charter schools most of their professional life, I can't understand a lot of the scrutiny. Charter schools could be an excellent alternative to a traditional public school specifically in a district that is low performing. It is an opportunity to be innovative and creative while adhering to extremely high expectations. Charter schools are held accountable to state and federal academic standards, solid management and operations, and fiscal responsibilities. Since public charter schools are funded with public dollars, they are required by law to be held accountable for how taxpayer dollars are spent with regular and ongoing reviews from their authorizing entities. The whole purpose to a charter school beyond providing a choice for parents is to close the achievement gap and improve student achievement. Hence, this raises the bar for public education. Charter schools are funded by local, state, and federal tax dollars based on student enrollment. They are free, do not have any special entrance requirements, and are not religious. They can not discriminate against any students on any basis. Public charter schools do not add any new costs to the state’s public education system. They simply move funding associated with a student from one public school to another based upon the decisions of families. Good practice indicates that charter schools should be designed to address the needs of the community and I firmly believe that is where The Guardian Academy Charter School of Peekskill hits a homerun! By creating an environment that children of the community needs as well as an environment where they can succeed is why charter schools are successful. The accountability is very intense….the expectations are very high. For people to undertake this kind of stress, responsibility/accountability, and start up project could only mean one thing….that they CARE!

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