Superintendent Recommends Approval of First Charter School in Montgomery County

June 23, 2011

Board of Education to Consider Two Charter School Applications Beginning June 27, 2011

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jerry D. Weast is recommending that the Montgomery County Board of Education approve one of the two charter school applications it has received for the 2012-2013 school year.  Dr. Weast recommended that the Board approve the Community Montessori Public Charter School, an early primary (preK-3) Montessori school, and deny the application of the Seneca Creek Public Charter School, a proposed Grade K–8 school with an emphasis on using the environment as an integrating context for learning.

The Board of Education will begin consideration of the two applications at its regular business meeting on Monday, June 27, 2011, by hearing presentations from both organizations and reviewing Dr. Weast’s recommendation. The Board is scheduled to vote on both applications on Thursday, July 7, 2011 during its business meeting.

Dr. Weast’s recommendation follows an extensive review of both applications by a panel comprised of internal and external members. The internal representatives included staff members from a broad spectrum of offices, including the offices of School Performance, Special Education and Student Services, Curriculum and Instructional Programs, and the Chief Operating Officer, as well as all three MCPS employee associations. The external representatives included individuals from the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, the community, higher education institutions, and business enterprises. The panel carefully reviewed the written applications and met with the applicants to clarify questions raised during the review process. The panel reached consensus on the applications, recommending approval of the Community Montessori application and denial of the Seneca Creek proposal.

This is the second application for Community Montessori, which had its first application rejected by the Board of Education last year.  The application describes Community Montessori as an outgrowth of the work Crossway Community, Inc, the parent corporation, has done to break the cycle of poverty for young women and their children through education. The school proposes to serve pre-K to grade 3 using Dr. Maria Montessori’s educational approach.

“Community Montessori made significant upgrades from its 2010 application,” Dr. Weast wrote in his recommendation to the Board. “Using the feedback the applicant received during the 2010 review process, Community Montessori significantly strengthened the application, providing well thought through plans in the majority of areas.  Although there were some concerns of significant weight, the review panel believed that if those issues could be resolved, the Community Montessori application was worthy of approval.”

The application for the Seneca Creek Public Charter School describes a K-8 public charter school with an emphasis on environmental science, community-based studies, and outdoor education.  The applicant proposes to use the “Environment as an Integrating Context” as the foundation of its curriculum and instructional approach.  The school is envisioned as a hands-on, interactive inquiry-based model that relies heavily on daily outdoor time.

The review panel raised a myriad of concerns about Seneca Creek’s plans and expertise to fulfill its mission. Concerns were raised about governance, finance, academic design, facilities and operations, among others.

“Of particular concern to the panel was the applicant’s poor understanding of how to meet the needs of special education students and English Language Learners,” Dr. Weast wrote.

Upon the completion of the review of Seneca Creek’s proposal, Dr. Weast concluded, “It is clear that despite the earnestness of their effort and the potential appeal of the concept, the applicant is simply not equipped to operate a school.”


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