Two York County leaders have co-signed a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett asking him to demonstrate his support for school choice by intervening to halt the Jan. 15 closure of New Hope Academy, a York City charter school ordered to close by the state's charter school appeals board.
Corbett's administration and the state Department of Education "should not challenge the school's forthcoming appeal and allow it to remain open," according to the letter signed by York City Mayor Kim Bracey and York County President Commissioner Steve Chronister.
Chronister, a Republican, appeared Wednesday afternoon at an emotional press conference held outside New Hope, 459 W. King St. He called the board's decision a "short-sighted move" that's not in the best interest of students.
"We're asking the governor to step in," he said.
The board voted unanimously Tuesday to deny New Hope's appeal of the York City School District's decision not to renew New Hope's charter. A written decision explaining the vote has not yet been released to the public.
The school has 30 days to appeal that decision to Commonwealth Court. School officials said they plan to do so.
Three New Hope officials, including the school's founder, also stepped to the podium Wednesday.
Isiah Anderson delivered an impassioned plea for time to improve students' academic performance at New Hope.
Many students who arrive at New Hope from the York City School District - undergoing a financial and academic recovery plan of its own - are academically far behind, Anderson said.
It's "unrealistic," he said, to expect a school to correct a "generation of failure" in just a few years. New Hope opened in 2007 and currently serves about 815 students in grades 5 through 12.
"We first have to change their attitudes," Anderson said, referring to students.
Anderson also said he believes the state's decision is tied to the financial interests of the city school district, which loses revenue when a student enrolls in a charter school.
The York City School District denied New Hope's application for a charter renewal in 2012. In October of that year, the charter school filed its appeal of the district's decision and was allowed to continue operating throughout the process.
The case has been in the hands of the appeals board ever since.
Don Trost, New Hope's high-school principal, said many parents have told him they will not enroll their kids in the district - "a school that does not put students first."
The school has launched a petition at www.savenewhope.com and is planning a rally, Trost said.
Anderson said he believes New Hope is being targeted for closure because it is an urban school. Closing a suburban school "would never be thought of," he said.
"We're not making excuses. We're calling out what the facts are," Anderson said.
He touted New Hope's 93 percent graduation rate. Ten of the school's current seniors have already been accepted to college, he said.
"We are trying to put a human face to a situation that hasn't had one. No one's talking about the young people. No one's talking about the parents," Anderson said.
Chronister and Anderson were joined at the podium by several students.
Shea Passno, a senior, said he "never appreciated education until I arrived in New Hope" three years ago.
"I beg you to contact people in charge ... and tell them to fight for my choice to go to this school," Passno said. "No one should be able to take that away from me."
Janeya Holley, an 8th-grade student, said she considers New Hope her "home."
"I have friends. I have people who are there for me," she said. "I just don't know what I would do if it got shut down."- Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.