Part of the process of getting any charter school application approved is for those seeking the school so show support from the local community by attaching letters of support to the application.
And though these letters are public record, they only surfaced in Washington County last week. As might be expected, they caused quite a commotion when the general public saw them. Several people who had submitted them immediately began trying to backtrack. One business owner says that when it became clear to her what was going on, she notified the person gathering them and told her NOT to send hers. It was still submitted–but unsigned.
There were 22 in all. One of the common refrains of both Woodland Prep charter supporters and those with the state charter commission is that 900 students a day leave the county to attend private schools. However, no one in Washington County believes this, nor do I.
The reason being that the county has no private schools and the most logical ones for students to attend are in Jackson in Clarke County and in Toxey in Choctaw County. Together they have a maximum of 550 students, a far cry from 900. Five of the support letters repeated this 900 students manta. I have tried to contact someone at the state department of education who also used this number to find out where he got it. No response.
One of the two unsigned letters DOES NOT mention anything about Woodland Prep or charters schools at all. And this is support?
The person who was orchestrating the effort was employed at the Washington County Economic Development Initiative. Her letter was submitted on WCEDI letterhead, giving it the appearance that it represented the endorsement of this group. The chairman of this group told me that the board NEVER voted to support the charter and the letter should not have been on WCEDI letterhead.
Probably the most interesting letter was from the Senior Vice President of Business Development for American Charter development, LLC in Springville, Utah. This is the company that will build the school facility. Isn’t this like a car dealer writing a letter to my banker telling him I should buy a new car, and he knows just the right dealer to buy from?
Furthermore, this letter is not so much about Woodland Prep, but a lengthy advertisement for all the services American Charter Development can provide. They point out that the company will be happy to provide 100 percent financing, as well as start-up zero-year funding for the school until other monies show up.
To me, letters like these are no different than references all of us might list on a job application. In my career I hired more than a few people. I always got in touch with their references, and others, to get a better understanding of who I might be about to hire.
Again, it is obvious the state charter commission was woefully inadequate in doing due diligence.
And since state school superintendent Eric Mackey refuses to investigate the charter commission as to what actually went on when Woodland Prep’s application was approved, the legislature should immediately convene an oversight committee to get to the bottom of this colossal mess.