The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 17, 2013

District denies request to start charter school

Frank Sojak

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown school board unanimously denied the application of Johnstown Academic Charter School.

The charter school was the idea of Pastor Joseph McGauley III, head of Jefferson Memorial First Born Church in the Prospect neighborhood, who was eyeing the former American Red Cross building on Vine Street for the location.

McGauley said after the meeting Wednesday that he will appeal the board’s decision to the state Department of Education.

The school board held a public hearing in November to listen to testimony about the proposed charter school.

School board’s stance

Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent Gerald Zahorchak said the board denied the application for several reasons, including:

• An academic program that did not meet state guidelines.

• Not having enough public support. The charter school did not show that a sufficient number of students would attend and there was not a corresponding amount of support from the education community and the community at large, Zahorchak said.

• Areas of the charter school budget that failed to pass muster. The charter school, which would receive $9,000 a year from the district for each student, failed to state how it was going to pay for faculty, educational materials and other items, Zahorchak said.

• Failure to follow charter school law by not having a set of bylaws to guide the school while selecting a board of trustees, and providing information on only one trustee. The lone trustee was McGauley.

Zahorchak said McGauley wants to care for Johnstown students and seemingly has the right intentions.

Supporters disappointed

McGauley contended he has met all the criteria.

“I felt that we had everything that we needed,” he said after the meeting.

“We’re very disappointed. We worked very hard to help the community and to help the children further their education.”

McGauley said the charter school supporters had a budget and a sound curriculum. He said they had an attorney who practices nothing but charter school law, and they have a board of trustees and support from the public.

McGauley said he had 50 students speak about the proposed school at the public hearing.

He said he didn’t get a petition to show how much support he had because he didn’t want to make it seem like he was causing a revolution.

In other business, the school board accepted the retirement requests of seven teachers at its four schools.

Zahorchak said the retiring educators will be difficult to replace because of their knowledge and experience.

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