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(Editor's note: This story was originally published Dec. 1, 2004)

In more than five hours of testimony, staff and parents from the Lincoln-Edison Charter School heard a lot of terms about issues they weren't even there to talk about, they said.

They heard that the school met "adequate yearly progress" as determined by the state, but it barely made it and its scores were still lower than all but one of York City School District's elementary schools.

They heard city school board members and the charter school's witnesses argue the difference between "operating expenses" and "capital expenses" and "surpluses" and "management fees" and "profit sharing language."

But shortly after 10 p.m. last night, members of the crowd started a verbal revolt, insisting that the two opposing groups stop talking about money and start talking about something that matters: like the children.

"For the children's sake let's stop politicking and start caring a little," said Althea Orr, a former charter board member.

Parents and others stood and interrupted the hearing, saying that their children like the school and perform well there.

 

The standing-room-only hearing was held to give charter personnel a chance to rebut earlier testimony from city school board members who spoke against renewing the charter's contract.

In stark comparison to the sparsely attended hearing a few weeks ago, supporters of the school turned out in dozens, some holding children in their laps, at least until it was past bedtime.

Contract renewal debated: Lincoln-Edison opened in 2000, and its five-year contract expires June 30, 2005.Lincoln charter board members want the district to renew the contract until 2010.

More than a tenth of the district's students -- about 690 -- attend the elementary school at a cost of about $4 million a year.

The city's charter school committee -- board president Jeffrey Kirkland and members Ellen Johnson and Tom Foust -- cited the school's test scores and a perceived lack of fiscal accountability in their decision to deny renewal of the contract.

The city board claims Lincoln should have shared half of the more than $800,000 excess revenue it had for the 2002-2003 school year instead of giving the money to Edison Schools, which oversees the charter, as a management fee.

But testimony from accountants and auditors called to testify on behalf of the charter said a profit-sharing agreement will go into effect only after Edison is repaid million of dollars of debt it incurred in starting the charter, which operates out of the former Lincoln Elementary School building at 559 W. King St.

Edward Wagoner, a certified public accountant who independently audited the charter, said Edison is not making enough profit from the school -- according to targets that they set -- to share any money with the city school district yet.

Attorney Daniel Fennick called eight people, mostly employees of Edison Schools, to testify for the charter.

Marlena Palmieri, senior vice president of Edison's charter school division, said the charter is meeting "adequate yearly progress," a term the state uses to describe schools that have met targets in test performance.

The Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test scores showed that Lincoln's reading scores fell short of most of the city district's schools, but its 37 percent proficient or advanced score beat Jackson and McKinley elementary schools.

Lincoln's scores improved by about 10 percent in each category over last year, which Palmieri said is a sign that curriculum and learning programs put in place at the school are working.

But most of the city district's elementary schools out-performed the charter school.

 

During the 2003-04 school year, 32 percent of fifth-graders at Lincoln scored proficient or advanced in math, 9 percent below the district's worst-performing elementary school, Jackson Elementary. It scored 41 percent proficient or advanced in math.

Parent may meet: Parent Leroy Thomas said his son, who attends Lincoln, had test scores that "blew away" York City's neighboring school districts. Though he lives in West York Area School District, he chooses to send his son to Lincoln-Edison because he believes he gets a better education there.

He suggested the city school board hold another meeting where parents can share success stories about the school.

Kirkland said the board must vote on whether to renew the contract at its Dec. 15 meeting, but he would be willing to attend a meeting if parents organize one.

Principal Jamy Jackson said students at Lincoln are in school for 7.75 hours a day, about an hour longer than students in the city schools. They also attend school 200 days per year, 20 more days than city school students.

There is a waiting list to get into the school, she said.

After the hearing, Kirkland, Foust and Johnson said they will meet Dec. 8 as a committee to discuss the hearing and whether it changes their recommendation to refuse to renew the charter's contract.

Johnson said it was "just very encouraging" to see so many parents who cared about their children's education.

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