State denies proposed Redfield charter school

LITTLE ROCK — The seven-member Arkansas Department of Education Charter Authorizing Panel on Thursday morning unanimously rejected an application for opening the proposed Redfield Tri-County Charter School.

ADE spokesman Kim Friedman said the denial was based on curriculum and financial issues. Friedman said the Redfield Tri-County Charter School Organization was encouraged to attend to the matters in question and then reapply. The state panel will be considering applications again in January 2014.

Amanda Kight, secretary of RTCSO’s board of directors, said Thursday afternoon that the group might instead appeal the panel’s decision to the ADE at the agency’s planned Dec. 9 meeting.

Kight said the board will decided its next step soon.

The push for a charter school began after the White Hall School Board voted 10 months ago to close Redfield Middle School at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year, with White Hall Middle School receiving Redfield’s future middle school students. Redfield is within the White Hall School District.

The Keep Redfield Middle School Task Force was then organized on the premise that a charter school might be the best option for keeping the school open.

Task force leader Todd Dobbins said after Thursday’s decision that he felt the state panel was “diligent and compassionate” in its consideration of the Redfield application. He praised the group for its courtesy and understanding.

However, Dobbins said he felt somewhat frustrated by the fact that some of the issues raised by the panel can’t be fully addressed without a superintendent in place for the Redfield charter school.

He referred other questions to Kight.

“She’s our spokesperson,” he said.

In February, the Redfield City Council agreed to petition the White Hall School Board to deed Redfield Middle School after the 2012-2013 term to a non-profit organization that would employ it as an open charter school.

White Hall Superintendent Larry Smith said in a Tuesday night school board meeting that Brandon Robinson, the district’s attorney, has advised that such a donation is not an option.

Proponents of the Tri-County Charter School stated in their application to the state that the school was projected to draw students from the White Hall, Sheridan and Pulaski County Special school districts.

Classes were to start with the 2014-2015 school year and serve grades 5-8 with an anticipated student enrollment of 175. An upward class would be added annually through the 12th grade.

The proposed school’s focus is, “Instill in each student core character values, a sense of community service, and a love of learning; empowered to achieve academic excellence and will be cognizant of their potential to change themselves and their community.”