Charter School Application from Valley Forge Military Academy Denied
May 26, 2021
Charter School Application from Valley Forge Military Academy Unanimously Denied by School Board Following Recommendation from Administration and District Solicitor
Eight Principle Reasons for Denial Provided by Solicitor at May 25 Meeting
Following a recommendation from administration and eight principle reasons provided by district solicitor Mike Kristofco, the RTSD School Board unanimously denied an application from the Valley Forge Military Academy (VFMA) to establish a charter school in the township at its May 25 regular business meeting. The action followed public hearings held on March 24, April 28, on May 12 where approximately 500 questions concerning the application were posed to VFMA representatives by district administration.
As a result of the information gathered during the hearings, administration and Mr. Kristofco prepared a proposed adjudication for the Board's consideration, which sets forth the reasons for the recommendation to deny the application. (View the full adjudication here. Watch the May 25 meeting here.)
The eight principle reasons for the recommended denial of the application are:
- Valley Forge Military Academy Charter School (VFMCS) failed to apply as a Regional Charter School and failed to apply to the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District Board. Under the law, any charter school that is physically located in more than one school district is considered a regional charter school. There is a separate application process in this case, which includes applying to every school district in which it would be located.
- VFMCS is not an independent charter school. The law requires that a charter school be an independent entity. Through the application and the three hearings, clear evidence indicated there is no distinction between VFMCS and the Valley Forge Military Academy. Representatives from VFMA prepared and presented the application, made the decision to create the charter school, and testified in support of the application. VFMCS would use the same educational model as VFMA, share employees with VFMA, and be located on the same grounds.
- VFMCS does not comply with Charter School Law regarding the requirements for nonsecretarianism. VFMCS would be finanically supported by a foundation that has a religious purpose. It was formed by VFMA, which has a secretarian purpose and would be located on and utilize a campus that includes a chapel.
- VFMCS failed to show that it has sustainable support. VFMCS failed to show that any students would enroll in year one. Additionally, concerns were raised regarding the VFMCS adoption of the military culture and the allegations of mistreatment of cadets. VFMCS also failed to provide evidence to show that it is being supported by the representatives from the local Intermediate Unit.
- VFMCS failed to establish that it has properly planned to provide a comprehensive learning experience to students. There were numerous contradictions between what was presented in the various hearing sessions and what was presented in the application. The curriculum was determined to be lacking and the application indicated that the VFMCS curriculum would be derived from the military academy's curriculum. The documents provided lacked state standards or listed standards that were not from the Pennsylvania Department of Education or do not adhere to the Pennsylvania Core and Academic Standards.
- VFMCS application failed to include all of the required information necessary under the Charter School Law. There are 7 different areas, which are spelled out in the adjudication, where the application is lacking specific information the Charter School Law requires.
- VFMCS failed to confirm to the legislative intent of the Charter School Law. There are six areas that set forth the legislative intent of the Charter School Law. In each of these areas, deficiencies were found.
- VFMCS failed to show how it will serve as a model to other public schools. This stipulation is one of the requirements a charter school must meet in order to be eligible to be established in Pennsylvania. VFMA representatives did not answer questions about the concerns expressed with the military culture of the private academy as well as did not explain how having a military culture in the charter school would enhance, or serve as a model for, future public schools. VFMA also did not demonstrate how it could be used as a model for other schools in terms of educational programming. Much of what VFMA provided in regards to educational programming was not completely developed or simply in place to meet the minimum requirements of School Code.
VFMA may now appeal or take other action with respect to this decision in accordance with the procedures set forth in 24 P.S. § 17-1717-A(f)-(i).