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Continued: Tumult, teacher turnover vex charter school in Apple Valley

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 20, 2014 - 11:49 PM

In the past two years, “the board has dismissed … any parent or teacher who has come to them with concern,” Klopp said. “I didn’t feel that the school board had strong enough leadership to be an oversight board.”

In June 2013, 70 parents showed up at a board meeting to protest the layoffs of five seasoned teachers. They questioned whether the teachers were terminated unfairly and whether the administration gave them any feedback on their performance.

Daugherty was one teacher whose contract wasn’t renewed.

Though the incident angered many and some families left, other teachers and families stayed, hoping things would improve, Daugherty said — but they haven’t.

Under Levy-Maguire, some families might not like the changes that have been made, said Stephanie Abraham, a board member until June. “It’s not for everybody.”

Teacher turnover

A 50 percent teacher-turnover rate is shocking even for a charter school, said Jill Godtland, a former Paideia teacher and director.

“I do keep in touch with a lot of the teachers and I know that things have not been great,” she said. “My gut instinct is that they left because of the director.”

During Godtland’s five years at Paideia, fewer than 20 percent of teachers left each year, she said.

Judging a charter school’s stability based on enrollment and staff turnover can be difficult, because charters tend to have ups and downs in both areas, said Abraham.

When asked about claims as to the number of teachers leaving, Abraham called the numbers “laughable.” But Levy-Maguire confirmed them, saying they were comparable to both 2012-13 and the previous year, when 16 teachers didn’t return for various reasons.

Issues with the school’s teaching climate “are not a new concern,” Levy-Maguire said. For two years, the school has paid a consulting firm to determine what changes would make the environment more positive, she said.

Paideia is working hard to improve both student achievement and its climate, she said.

Bold personalities

Godtland said that charter schools can attract bold personalities who want to make changes, and being at a charter allows them to do so more easily than at a regular public school.

June board minutes show the school had an $180,000 deficit at the year’s end. Though it was the first time there has ever been a deficit, Levy-Maguire chalked it up to enrollment over-projections and new, shorter enrollment periods. But Klopp insisted the deficit was a “straight reflection of enrollment.”

This year, the school’s enrollment is at 354, compared with 382 in August last year. The school does have waiting lists for younger grades.

Erin Adler • 952-746-3283

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