Fresno Charter School Trying To Stay Open – After Recommendation To Close

FRESNO (KMJ) — A Downtown Fresno charter school is making a public appeal to keep its doors open. Officials at the Kepler Neighborhood School want to garner support before its five year authorization expires in 2018.

“Kepler has grown significantly since its inception” explained Executive Director Margaret Ameel. “We had a trajectory to grow a little bit slower, but we found very quickly that with all of the need in our area our student population exploded.”

The recommendation to close from the California Charter School Association (the non-profit which monitors charter schools across the state) cites a failure to thrive, an inability to meet academic targets, and no evidence of improvement.

“Every school should be evaluated and judged on what we’re doing for our students,” responded Ameel. “[The recommendation was] due to a number of factors: we moved to a new building, we had a leader who was out for maternity leave, multiple different things.

“Ultimately resulted in us not having consistent year-to-year student evaluation data.”

The California Charter School Association told KMJ News that it “could not find a compelling picture of growth in student success.”

But the final decision comes down to the Fresno Unified School Board.

“Fresno Unified holds our authorization,” detailed Ameel. “They are the ones who we applied to to be able to get a charter. They hold our charter, they hold us accountable for our charter.

“CCSA is truly a support group and an advocate for charter schools…they do approach them [schools] and say ‘hey, how can we help you. If you continue to not work to become better then we’ll include you and suggest that you not get renewed.”

The Board of Trustees will make the ultimate call on whether or not to keep Kepler Neighborhood School open. The collective decision has to be made before the five-year authorization expires on June 30th 2018.

In a statement to KMJ News, Fresno Unified School District said it has have not yet received the charter renewal petition that would begin the re-authorization process and clarifies that “Charters have their own governing board and Fresno Unified’s very limited role is to provide financial oversight and review their authorization every 5 years.”

Hear the report from KMJ’s Dominic McAndrew as it aired: