Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

12 Mar 2022

Durango School District 9-R Board of Education suing Ascent Classical Academies over application

Posted by Adam Howell


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Durango School District 9-R Board of Education is suing Ascent Classical Academies for submitting its application top open a charter school too early before the deadline that the District established.

Durango School District 9-R Board of Education is suing Ascent Classical Academies

Derec Shuler, the Executive Director of of Classical Academies, gives a presentation about the school at a meeting held at Durango Public Library.

In a mostly inaudible study session that was broadcasted on Zoom, the Board President Kristin Smith announced the lawsuit on March 8, 2022.

“Under state law, the Board of Education has exclusive authority to authorize charter schools within District boundaries. This means that any group interested in opening a charter school here must apply to the District.

State law and District policy require potential charter schools to seek authorization a year in advance of opening. State law allows local boards of education to set the application date, provided it is between August 1st and October 1st. Per policy, the application date in this District is August 1st. The Board then has 90 days to make a decision on the application, which allows time for District staff, the District Accountability Committee, and the community to provide feedback.”

Earlier this school year, Ascent Classical asked that the District grant it an earlier application date, so that it could go ahead and file an application and start the District’s review process, many months in advance. Ascent Classical then asked that it be allowed to skip the District’s application process and apply instead to the state Charter School Institute for authorization. The District did not approve Ascent’s requests.

On February 7, 2022, Ascent attempted to submit a charter school application. The District reiterated the August 1st filing date and stated that in the event Ascent Classical continues to be interested in establishing a charter school in the District, it could file an application at that time, and that application would be reviewed.

Despite its previous belief that it needed the District permission to file an application early, Ascent Classical demanded immediate review and took the position that the 90-day time period allowed by law, has started to run,” said Smith.

“Ascent Classical threatened to file an an administrative appeal with the State Board of Education to circumvent the established August 1st filing date.

The Board of Education supports efforts by parents and guardians and teachers or other interested persons or organizations interested in establishing charter schools within the district consistent with the timeline and review process at the dates established in the District’s policy.

To protect its constitutional right to local control that has long resulted in an equitable and workable charter review process that is applied consistently to all potential charter schools, the district has asked that the District Court of La Plata County declare that the District is not required to review Ascent Classical school’s charter application until August 1st, 2022. The District just learned late this afternoon that Ascent Classical has decided to not respect the judicial process, and instead has filed an appeal to the State Board. Upon initial review, that appeal appears to be [inaudible] the process, and the District will respond with due course.”



Durango School District 9-R Board would rather sue than review

In response to the lawsuit, this is what Ascent Classical Academies had to say about the behavior of Durango School District 9-R Board:

On Feb. 7, 2022, Ascent Classical Academy of Durango submitted a charter application to the school
district in accordance with the school board’s policy stating applications are due “on or before
Aug. 1.”

Ascent Classical Academy Charter Schools has opened other highly successful schools in Colorado with
great demand from parents. Its rigorous academic programs have been rated as high-quality by the
Colorado Department of Education, and the parents of over 520 Durango children have said they would
like to send their children to Ascent Classical. In fact, almost 70% of those families would return to public
education if the Durango school board approved Ascent Classical Academy.

But the Durango school board has been extremely hostile to this successful and innovative school. “I’m
disappointed that the school board won’t give us a professional and unbiased review,” said Derec Shuler,
executive director of Ascent Classical Academies. “The board policy says charter schools must apply on or
before Aug. 1 and we’re doing the same thing Durango Schools of Choice did when they submitted the
application for Juniper School in Feb. 2015. But instead of reviewing our application, the board decided
to sue us.”

The Durango school board’s lawsuit claims it is prohibited from accepting a charter school application
before Aug. 1, which would require the court to declare the school board’s “on or before Aug. 1” deadline
illegal.

To learn more about Ascent Classical’s education and their efforts to bring a new campus to Durango, visit durango.ascentclassical.org

Application submission/filing procedure of School Board and Colorado statute appear to differ

It appears that the submission procedure policy that’s outlined in the Relations with District Charter Schools of Durango School District 9-R Board of Education is different than when the application filing is supposed to occur according to Colorado law.

Here’s the policy of Durango School District 9-R Board of Education:

Relations with District Charter Schools

Here’s the applicable law in Colorado Revised Statute 22-30.5-107. Charter application – process:

(b) The local board of education shall receive and review all applications for charter schools. If the local board of education does not review a charter application, it shall be deemed to have denied the charter application. A charter applicant must file its application with the local board of education by a date determined by the local board of education to be eligible for consideration for the following school year. An application is considered filed when the school district administration receives the charter application from the charter applicant either in hard copy or electronically. The date determined by the local board of education for filing of applications shall not be any earlier than August 1 or any later than October 1. Prior to any change in the application deadline, the local board of education shall notify the department and each charter school applicant in the district of the proposed change by certified letter.

UPDATE:

On March 9, the Colorado State Board of Education voted unanimously to direct the state’s Attorney General to intervene. They asked the Attorney General to intervene and assert the state board’s power over charter appeals, according to Ascent Classical Academy.

“This vote recognizes the proper process is through the Colorado State Board of Education and not the courts,” Shuler said in a press release.

#1 PL Durango v. Ascent Classical COMPLAINT 20220301
22.03.15 Mot to Intervene (BOE) w Exs A-B
Adam Howell is a writer who believes in free press and the importance of the constitution. He can be reached by clicking on this link to the contact page.


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One Response to “Durango School District 9-R Board of Education suing Ascent Classical Academies over application”

  1. Step out of the way 9R and give the 500+ families interested in joining Ascent a chance to prove how much this school is needed!

     

    Kristin Dallison

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