The Roseburg Public Schools board of directors agreed to extend the charter agreement with Phoenix School of Roseburg for five years on Wednesday, following months of discussions and alteration.
Thomas McGregor, Phoenix School of Roseburg executive director, said: “Phoenix School is proud to be sponsored by Roseburg and be chartered as their 13th public school. While there may have been some divisive rhetoric from one element, we were encouraged by how the board at-large were able to rise above an extreme viewpoint rooted in exclusionary standards which often leave children behind. The board showcased their concerns for our students during these troubling times and the desire to work together. We believe the journey ahead will continue the community’s investment in Phoenix School to ensure every student succeeds.”
The new contract calls for more frequent check-ins with the school board and creates a new set of goals for the charter school.
Roseburg board chair Rebecca Larson said, “We have an opportunity to hear their progress quarterly and evaluate if they’re meeting standards annually. And if they aren’t then they’re in breach of contract then we can make decisions at that point if needed, but I think it is a huge improvement as far as outlining expectations for student performance graduation rate reading attendance, etc.”
Phoenix Charter School will continue to serve grades 8-12 and students up to age 21.
Included in the new contract were three academic goals, three financial goals and 14 organizational objectives.
Director of Student Services Rick Burton, who worked on the contract, said, “In short, there’s been multiple things that they have already worked very, very hard at integrating before the sponsorship was completed and they’re working hard right now to try to make sure that they’re working towards the agreement as the sponsorship has been asked of them.”
The academic goals included increasing attendance, increasing the four-year high school completion rate and increasing student growth.
Larson also noted that she has attended numerous meetings between the two parties and said that Roseburg school district was not in compliance with current laws regarding charter schools, which will be corrected by the new contract. She added that not signing the contract would mean that the district would default to the old contract, which was not as legally sound.
The new contract will also honor and respect the collective bargaining agreement with the Roseburg Education Association.
The vote passed 5-1, with board member Micki Hall voting against the renewed contract. Board member Howard Johnson was excused from Wednesday’s meeting.
“Phoenix School is dedicated to student success and, although their student population is generally regarded as not fitting into a traditional school, their expected success rate should be comparable to a traditional school because they’re being taught with unconventional but appropriate instructional methods,” Hall said. “The performance standards in this new contract are set abysmally low. Yet research shows that students of all types respond to higher expectations when they’re delivered in a kind, caring, and thoughtful way. Unless the goals are set higher and expectations for those goals are higher, Phoenix will not improve as a school. But will continue to be a place where 150 or so students drown in the lack of expectations with only about 25% of them meeting what is minimally imagined as an education. Hypothetically, if we were to design a charter school from the ground up, our expectations, even given a non-traditional student body, would be much higher than what is expected as improvement for Phoenix. And so I take exception with the philosophy that undergirds this contract. Quite frankly, I think the performance goals that we have not met from 2015-20 have been lowered with the expectation that Phoenix can meet them. And I believe that’s the wrong way to go about improving things.”
Hall also inquired about the legal costs — which exceed $12,500 for the last three and half months’ worth of work — as well as the overall cost to the district. That number is approximately $60,000 for special education and around $18,500 for mental health services.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 28 via Zoom.