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January 6, 2012

Gibault’s charter school app denied

Ball State says no; Plan to apply through state

TERRE HAUTE — Gibault’s application to Ball State University to sponsor a charter school has been denied.

Of 14 applications submitted to the university’s Office of Charter Schools in 2011, just three were approved last month, according to the Ball State website. Gibault’s proposed charter school is called Summit Academy.

Bob Marra, executive director of the Ball State Office of Charter Schools, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Jim Sinclair, Gibault president and CEO, said officials there had been optimistic that Ball State would sponsor Summit Academy. “Ball State was very helpful in giving us every benefit of a doubt,” he said.

He anticipates Gibault will now apply through the state. Last year, the General Assembly approved creation of the Indiana Charter School Board.

In 2010, Gibault asked the Vigo County School Corp. to be a sponsor, but the School Board voted against it.

Gibault is a residential treatment facility that serves children who have been removed from their communities because of behavior. The children receive treatment and attend school there.

Gibault works with high-risk students who often are special needs as well. Some children who come to Gibault have not attended school for lengthy periods.

One of the challenges is that public charter schools must still meet state and federal accountability requirements. Using the traditional ISTEP assessment in Indiana, it can be more challenging to demonstrate progress, given the population Gibault serves, its officials have said.

“We don’t necessarily fit the exact mold of a charter school applicant, based on the children we have,” Michele Madley, Gibault vice president, said last year.

While Summit Academy would serve Gibault residents, as a public charter school, it also must have an open enrollment policy.

The application to Ball State indicated Gibault wanted to establish a charter school “to meet the needs of students who have failed to progress in a traditional school setting,” including those who have dropped out or have been expelled.

Charter schools are funded by the state in the same way that traditional public schools are funded, which comes primarily in the form of state formula aid.

Sinclair noted that fewer children in Indiana are being placed in residential treatment facilities. Instead, there is greater use of homebound and wraparound services. He expects that trend to continue.

“The state is downsizing the market,” he said.

He anticipates the state will put out a request for proposals and become more selective about the programs it uses for residential placement services for children. That would mean fewer providers, and it could put some programs “out of business,” he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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