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A Charter School's Last Stand


A Capital Region charter school could close for good due to academic failure.  A last-ditch effort is under way to save it.

Some 220 students at Ark Community Charter School in Troy may be displaced if final court proceedings affirm a SUNY Trustees Charter Schools Committee decision that agreed with findings by SUNY's Charter Schools Institute that Ark failed to meet its academic goals.

SUNY trustees attributed their 2-to-1 decision not to renew the River Street school's charter to low academic performance due to poor test scores:  Barbara Higbee is a trustee on the Howard and Bush Foundation, which helped fund the charter school's start 13 years ago.    "We're very concerned that the school should not be targeted for closure. The absolute scores of these children are much higher than they would have been than if they were in a regular public school. It's quite a loss to the students and an upset to everyone. Why is it being targeted for closure?   It's really quite inexplicable. The two issues that were brought out: one was the perceived conflict of interest. The judge did find that worthy of a second look.  This is from the SUNY Board of Trustees webpage: The woman that chairs the staff that made the recommendations of closure was a founder of the other charter school in the city of Troy. And the other is it seems like they took the first year of common core as an excuse for closing the school. And that is against the rules, that is against their policy, and it should not be."

Ark officials decided that the school wasn't going down without a fight. They went to court to challenge the order of closure. The school was denied a request to remain open while challenging the state decision to shut down. Steven Axelrod is the Board Chair of Ark:   "We filed for a temporary restraining order, which was denied while they're reviewing our case. We appealed that decision and we should hear something shortly."Over one thousand people have signed an online petition to keep Ark open."

Mark Menard's son is a kindergartener enrolled at Ark.   "It's absolutely incredible the growth that I've seen in him this year and the involvement and encouragement he's received at the Ark."

Steven Axelrod believes in the school and its chances to survive; nonetheless, he advises parents to make alternate plans for the next school year.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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