York City school board members pan proposed Lincoln Charter expansion

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

Several York City school board members openly criticized Lincoln Charter's proposed expansion a week ahead of when the board is scheduled to vote on the issue.

On Monday, school board members blasted the charter's proposal to add middle school grades, which is included in Lincoln Charter's five-year renewal application.

"Are we thinking common sense, are we thinking business sense, are we thinking no sense?" said York City board member Arleta Riviera. "How do you want your school district to flow? Do you want it to flow commonly? Do you want it to flow businessly? Or do you want it to go down the drain?"

The district has been supportive of the charter school in the recent past — offering a second chance when the charter school's officials submitted untimely audits and renewing the charter several times.

More:Lincoln Charter advocates push expansion as York City vote nears

More:Lincoln Charter looking to add grades with charter renewal

However, this year, district officials were hit hard financially, with a 2020-21 budget that cut more than 44 positions — 32 of them teachers — and eliminated or reduced funding for several programs.

York City's district is also facing a $2.5 million increase in statewide charter tuition next year, which could be exacerbated by even more children attending Lincoln.

Additionally, York City School District pays for Lincoln Charter's utilities and maintenance, which Lincoln Charter pays back quarterly to the district, said David Diffendoff during the meeting, who spoke on behalf of Richard Snodgrass, the business manager for the district.

York City School District owns the Lincoln Charter building, located at 559 W. King St.,  Mitchell said. 

"We foot their facility and their bills. They pay us nothing," Riviera said. "Let alone they're taking away our children from our school district, which is also taking away money out of our school district. That's what we need to be thinking about."

Lincoln Charter did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.

Lincoln Charter officials have argued that the expansion is key to improving access to education throughout York City.

"York City hear us, hear our pain," said Akilah Hawkins, president of the Lincoln Charter School Parent Advisory Committee, at a rally on July 9. "We just want to be a part of your family."

A handful of parents and students spoke in favor of the charter school at the rally, noting staff takes the time to know the students, offers a safety net and makes school feel like a family — even supporting students after graduation.

Shawn Jamison said though he's proud to have graduated from York City schools, he recognizes that some students, especially in the inner city, need extra attention and accountability, and he's grateful Lincoln did not give up on his daughter Shakira, 11.

"My daughter went from missing 51 days of school one year and failing to missing one day of school and passing," Jamison said.

Akilah Hawkins of the Lincoln Parent Advisory Committee repeats calls for "renew, expand and grow"  during a rally for the parents and supporters of Lincoln Charter School, focused on the renewal, expansion and growth of Lincoln Charter School.
Tuesday, July 7, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

During Monday's meeting, school board member Michael Breeland and board President Tanoue Onishi Sweeney agreed with Riviera and expressed concerns about the potential effects of Lincoln's expansion on York City's finances. 

School board member Margie Orr further criticized Lincoln Charter for not being prepared with an outlined curriculum for the proposed addition of middle school grades.

"(Lincoln Charter) come to us empty-handed and expects what of us?" Orr said. "It seems so nonsensical to me for them to even come to us with this proposal knowing full well that they don't have their curriculum in place to elevate sixth up to eighth grade. Who is actually running that school? They should know better."

If Lincoln Charter's proposal is granted, this would be the fourth renewal for Lincoln, which first applied to be a charter 20 years ago. The school has an enrollment of 675 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The York City school board is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its committee meeting Monday and vote at its regular board meeting July 22.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.