There is currently an application before the Board of School Directors for the School District of Lancaster for a new charter school: the Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School (ABECS). The ABECS proposal offers an alternative education for kindergarten through fourth grade students in the District. This application is a second attempt by Mr. Sait Onal and others to establish a charter school in the School District of Lancaster. The first application, for the Lancaster Science Academy, was rejected by the school board in 2008. The hearing for the current application is Tuesday, February 19, and any interested community members are strongly encouraged to attend.
After reviewing the application for the proposed Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School, it appears that the proposed curriculum is poorly-designed and that the Academy administrators offer no clear means for the proposed school to achieve AYP as promised.
Additionally, their base of community supporters includes numerous instances of cronyism and overstatement. For example:
>A letter of support from Lutheran Refugee Services is being withdrawn. The original letter of support was issued and signed by the lead applicant's wife, Selma Onal.
> A letter of support from Economics Pennsylvania is being withdrawn
> A letter of support from Free Enterprise, Inc. is being withdrawn.
> A letter of support from Harrisburg Community College is being withdrawn "based on the ongoing public scrutiny and concerns regarding allegations of the organization"
> A letter of support from MUDI Farm Export is signed by the applicant, Sait Onal
> A letter of support from Transamerica is issued from the agency office managed by Sait Onal and is signed by an individual who is presumably Mr. Onal's subordinate.
> Additional letters of support come from Godiva Chocolate in Reading and Etimine USA in Pittsburgh. These letters promise the opportunity for "job shadow days" and "summer internships" at their respective locations for the charter school's kindergarten through fourth grade students.
> One Community Board Member, Laura Binkley, is listed as an employee of Huntington Learning Center in Lancaster. Huntington Learning Center no longer operates in Lancaster.
> One former Community Advisory Board member, when told she was listed as such on their website, responded by saying, "I'm on their website?" She subsequently advised them that she was not to be considered a member of their Community Advisory Board and ensured that her name was removed from their site.
These aspects of their application speak to our larger concern regarding the applicants' lack of transparency and honesty.
Furthermore, there is an absence of truly local community support. Of the fifteen individuals comprising their Founding Board and Advisory Board, we believe that half or more of these individuals live outside of the School District of Lancaster.
Moreover, we do not believe that this charter school application serves an otherwise unmet need in the School District of Lancaster. There is little about their curriculum that is innovative, the concerns about their ability to deliver quality education are significant, and the applicants' true motives appear questionable. We have great concern about exposing any students, especially K-4 students, to the risk of five years of substandard education.
We urge the Board of School Directors for the School District of Lancaster to reject the application for the Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School.
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