Nevada Ed-Watch 4/19/19

The Ed-Watch series is designed to increase access to information on what decisions are being made regarding public education in Clark County and Nevada.


State Public Charter School Authority (SPCSA)

What is the SPCSA & what are they responsible for? The SPCSA sponsors and oversees public charter schools across the State of Nevada. The Authority consists of seven appointed members responsible for overseeing educational and operational standards, and holding sponsored schools accountable to the academic achievement of students.

How often does the SPCSA Board meet? SPCSA members meet once monthly (three times in June)– on Fridays.

Click here for SPCSA meeting schedule and materials.

Can community members engage at SPCSA Board Meetings? All meetings are held publicly at the Nevada Department of Education building in Carson City and the Nevada Department of Education building in Las Vegas (2nd floor boardroom). Members of the public are invited to attend at either location. A time for public comment is provided at the beginning (for agenda items) and at the conclusion (on any matter) of each Board meeting. There is a time limit of three minutes per speaker. Members of the community providing testimony must fill out a visitor card, available on-site the day of the meeting.

Click here for a list of all SPCSA Members.

Click here for a list of all SPCSA sponsored schools.


Friday, April 19, 2019
State Public Charter School Authority Board Meeting

Click here to see the meeting agenda

What happened at this meeting?

Public Comment
Members of the public provided testimony to Board members regarding:

  • Open meeting law compliance complaints against individual charter schools authorized by the State Public Charter School Authority.  

The Board welcomed the newly-appointed Executive Director of the State Public Charter School Authority

Rebecca Feiden was introduced and welcomed as the new Executive Director.

The Board Heard Staff Reports From Each Team (Authorizing, School Support, Finance & Operations, & Legal)

The Authorizing Team provided the following updates to the Board:

  • Relocation of the Elko Institute For Academic Achievement
  • Progress on SPCSA Performance Frameworks (Academic, Financial, and Organizational)
    • Academic Framework
      • The team has completed two listening sessions with a working group consisting of charter school leaders, Department of Education representatives, and SPCSA staff members. The group discussed the indicators and measures that would make up the Academic Framework. The group’s next meeting is scheduled for May 2nd.
    • Financial Framework
      • The team is working to fully implement the Financial Framework. So far, they have finished building internal measures (logic models), and expanded the ratings process to include all six years of financial performance.
    • Organizational Framework
      • The team has completed listening sessions and two formal working group sessions around the Organizational Framework. They are referencing a framework from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers as a foundation to build upon.
  • New Charter Applicants
    • 20 charters submitted a Notice of Intent to submit an application during the 2019 Summer cycle to launch schools in Clark, Washoe, and Nye counties.
      • Staff has notified school districts of the Notices of Intent that fall within their district boundaries.
      • The staff also provided clarification to districts that Notices of Intent are just a step in the approval process, and that these schools have not yet been approved or denied.
  • Charter Amendment Applications (Notice of Intent to submit a charter amendment application the 2019 summer cycle)
    • In response to concerns about the process being cumbersome, the team has been working with school leaders to streamline charter amendment requests. They have also administered a survey to collect feedback on ways to improve the process. Amendment requests will be presented during the June 28th Board meeting.
  • Charter school contract renewals have are being reviewed for the following:
    • Doral Academy
    • Coral Academy of Science
    • Learning Bridge
    • Nevada Virtual Academy
  • Revolving Loan Application cycle update
    • The SPCSA is an administrator of the state’s revolving loan fund for charter schools, regardless of their sponsor. Funds are provided for schools currently operating or in the start-up phase.
    • The team reported receiving 2 applications. One school has requested $56,000 dollars, and the other has requested $42,000 dollars.
    • Loan repayment occurs over 3 years, at prime rate, and is automatically deducted from the school’s DSA payment.

The School Support Team provided the following updates to the Board:

  • Assessment and accountability
    • The team is providing support to schools in the areas of assessment and accountability, including: assessment administration, testing irregularities, and monitoring civil rights data collection
  • Conferences, meetings, and trainings
    • The team will be attending conferences on emergency management, gifted education, and special education in the near future.
  • School support
    • The team is supporting schools with pre-enrollment audits, Career & Technical Education program guidance, facilitating a charter school safety committee, fielding technical questions, and liaising with the Department of Education for information.

The Operations & Finance Team provided the following updates to the Board:

  • Interim Finance Committee (IFC) meeting on April 4th
    • A semi-annual update was provided to Interim Finance Committee members.
    • The next update is due in October.
  • Executive Budget for the 2019-2021 biennium
    • The team is working with the Governor’s office and Legislative Council Bureau to finalize the agency’s two budget accounts:
    • Budget Account 2708 – Revolving Loan Account: The team has no indication that there are any issues with this budget and anticipate it will be approved.  
    • Budget Account 2711 – Operating Account: This account includes the operating budget of the agency including staff positions, grants, and other agency expenses. Once approved, these budgets will be in place July 1, 2019 through the next biennium.
      • This budget includes two pending items prior to being closed and voted on at the April 30th budget meeting. These include:
        • Four new staff positions – these positions would support site evaluations and a number of other areas within the SPCSA
        • Budget reserve level – concerns were raised about the reserve level during the February 22nd legislative budget hearing. The team has been working with the Governor’s office to reduce the level of reserve.

The Legal Team provided the following updates to the Board:

  • Litigation
    • A lawsuit was filed against the SPCSA by the National Coalition for Public School Options related to a public records request.
    • Two complaints were filed with the Attorney General’s (AG) office regarding a current and a former staff member.  The SPCSA has been working with the AG’s investigation office to provide all information requested, and general counsel expects that the investigation will close fairly soon without any adverse findings.
  • Open Meeting Law compliance
    • The Nevada State Attorney General’s office has received 76 open meeting law complaints this year against charter schools that are authorized by the SPCSA, the Clark County School District, and the Washoe County School District. SPCSA general counsel advised that the majority of complaints seem to be technical in nature, related to language in agendas. Schools will be allowed to contest particular violations. As remedy, schools will need to attend open meeting law training.

Board Approved Nevada Connections Academy’s Dual Enrollment Policy Update

In response to concerns about Connections Academy’s performance, the Board approved dual enrollment, but with the following conditions:

  • Evidence that the State Board of Education has approved the courses
  • Given performance, individual graduation plans for participating students be submitted to SPCSA staff for their records
  • Does not mean that their contract will be renewed in the future

Click here to see the staff recommendations report.

Click here to see the dual credit amendment request.

The Board heard updates on ongoing site evaluations

Staff shared the following site evaluation updates with Board members:

  • 13 school site evaluations have been completed
  • 3 site evaluations are scheduled for next week
  • Added 2 additional schools in the North to be evaluated in May
  • Goal is to complete 18 campus site evaluations by end of the school year

Additionally:

  • 9 final evaluation reports have been submitted to chairs, school leaders, and board chairs, with a 10th submitted by end of day Monday, April 22nd.
  • About 30 schools remain to be evaluated

Staff is seeing two trends during site evaluations:

  • Families report being happy with the school culture, programs offered, and the decision they made to enroll their student in that school.
  • A need for Boards to get more training around best practices to clarify their roles as school Board members and their responsibilities as a governing body.

A draft site evaluation schedule for the 2019-20 school year will be presented at the June Board meeting.

Click here to see the site evaluation updates document.

Click here to see the site evaluation schedule.

Click here to see the site evaluation handbook.

Board heard legislative updates

  • AB78:  SPCSA “omnibus” bill. This bill has passed the Assembly Education Committee and is pending a full Assembly Floor vote.  This bill, in its current form, does the following:
    • Clarifies the SPCSA’s role as a Local Education Agency (LEA)
    • Provides the SPCSA with plenary regulatory authority
    • Clarifies the annual reporting of sponsors to the Department of Education, including the comprehensive review the Department of Education should complete every 3 years, and adding 2 additional members to the SPCSA board, appointed by the State Board of Education.
    • Clarifies the responsibility of SPCSA to serve students with disabilities
    • Addresses the future of Achievement School District (ASD) schools’ sponsorship.
  • SB451: Variable length charter contract renewal. This bill has passed out of the Senate floor and will be heard next in the Assembly Committee on Education. This bill allows for variable length contract renewal at the discretion of the SPCSA, between 3 and 10 years. Under the current statute, only 6 year contract renewals are allowed.
  • SB441: Provides for separate regulation of virtual charter schools. This bill has passed out of the Senate Education Committee and is due next to be heard on the Senate Floor. This bill allows for the following:
    • Allows the authority to pass regulations to have a separate oversight role in regard to virtual schools
    • Allows the authority board to form a subcommittee to oversee virtual schools
    • Provides for drafting of regulations related to admission and enrollment requirements for those schools
    • Allows virtual schools to suspend or expel students who are not participating in the virtual program
    • The originally drafted bill allowed the authority to draft regulations to withhold a portion of DSA funds based on student performance, however this provision has been struck from the bill at present.
  • AB462: Formerly, Charter School Moratorium. This bill has passed out the Assembly Committee on Education and is due next to be heard on the full assembly floor for a vote. This bill originally placed a moratorium on all charter schools opening, however that provision has been struck. This bill now includes the following provisions:
    • Codifies site evaluations, including:
      1. Complete initial site evaluations of all campuses by June 30, 2020
      2. Then, conduct evaluations in first, third, and 5th year of schools’ operation
      3. Ensure that site evaluations are identifying any deficiencies and that corrective action is taken as needed
    • Completion of a statewide Pupil Needs Study by January 1, 2020, to include:
      • Where schools will go, justification, and proof of collaboration with districts and departments.
      • Academic needs study, which includes demographic information, at-risk population information, and proof that a new school serves the best interest of pupils.
    • Requires a growth management plan for success, to include:
      • 5 year projection related to growth, projected number of new schools to open and new campuses, projected increases in enrollment, renewals, academic information, and any other information deemed necessary to show that a new charter school or expansion of a charter school serves the best interest of pupils.

Board heard updates on the SPCSA strategic and growth management plan

SPCSA staff provided the Board information regarding the next iteration of SPCSA’s strategic plan

SPCSA staff stated that the Strategic Plan will largely center around a Growth Management Plan. The plan will provide detail on how the agency will continue to grow to serve students and ensure that the goals and purpose of the agency are being accomplished.

The development of the Growth Management Plan will provide SPCSA the platform to engage other agencies, schools, and community members to ensure that the plan aligns to the current needs of communities.

In May, staff will provide the Board an update on how the plan will be developed– including stakeholders to engage, anticipated timeline, and other inputs that will be incorporated into research and plan development.

SPCSA Board received training in Open Meeting Law Compliance.

Click here to see the full presentation.


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Nevada Ed-Watch: 2/15/19

The Ed-Watch series is designed to increase access to information on what decisions are being made regarding public education in Clark County and Nevada.


State Public Charter School Authority (SPCSA)

What is the SPCSA & what are they responsible for? The SPCSA sponsors and oversees public charter schools across the State of Nevada. The Authority consists of seven appointed members responsible for overseeing educational and operational standards, and holding sponsored schools accountable to the academic achievement of students.

How often does the SPCSA Board meet? SPCSA members meet once monthly (three times in June)– on Fridays.

Click here for SPCSA meeting schedule and materials.

Can community members engage at SPCSA Board Meetings? All meetings are held publicly at the Nevada Department of Education building in Carson City and the Nevada Department of Education building in Las Vegas (2nd floor boardroom). Members of the public are invited to attend at either location. A time for public comment is provided at the beginning (for agenda items) and at the conclusion (on any matter) of each Board meeting. There is a time limit of three minutes per speaker. Members of the community providing testimony must fill out a visitor card, available on-site the day of the meeting.

Click here for a list of all SPCSA Members.

Click here for a list of all SPCSA sponsored schools.


Friday, February 15, 2019
State Public Charter School Authority – Board Meeting

Click here to see the meeting agenda

What happened at this meeting?

The Board Heard Staff Reports From Each Team (Authorizing, School Support, Finance & Operations & Legal)

The Authorizing Team provided the following updates to the Board:

  • Site Evaluations:
    • Staff has participated in 15 hours of training for conducting site evaluations and conducted 5 site evaluations to date (on schedule to complete half of portfolio school site visits by the end of the semester).
    • It was noted that during focus groups, families at every school that received a visit report being happy with the decision they made to enroll their student in that school. Strong school culture at each school was also recognized.
    • A common opportunity for growth identified was around increasing instructional rigor.
  • School Applications:
    • The team is following up with schools that submitted a Letter of Intent to launch, but didn’t apply for authorization.
    • Reflections shared with schools that provided feedback were around schools needing to establish internal deadlines and requesting training on topics like Human Resources best practices, student recruitment, and funding.
  • Academic & Organizational Performance Frameworks:
    • The team held three 90-minute listening sessions with about 18 individuals to collect stakeholder input regarding SPCSA Performance Frameworks (both Academic and Organizational). Here’s what they heard:
      • A strong preference not to make the Academic Framework complicated, and not to duplicate the Nevada framework (NSPF)– rather, to look for complementary measures of performance.
      • A need to find a way to measure progress of students year-over-year.
      • Ensuring Organizational Framework standards are clear, simple, and avoid duplication from other components of the Frameworks.
    • Staff stated that the listening sessions are the first of many conversations. The Authorizing Team acknowledges that input from school leaders are necessary and welcomed. Next step is for attendees to participate in working groups (at least monthly) to continue developing the Academic and Organizational Frameworks.
    • Goal is for the framework to be updated and presented to the Board in June.
  • Focus on Schools updates
    • The team wants schools to share best practices with each other more regularly, and would like to hear from at least 6 schools in 2019 about what’s working. They also want to hear best practices across school types, like traditional district schools and other charters not sponsored by the SPCSA.
    • The team also wants to hear specifically from schools that have shown significant improvement, but are not ranked as 4- and 5- stars. The team talked about working with the press, the Charter School Authority of Nevada (CSAN), and other entities like Teach For America.

The School Support Team provided the following updates:

  • Provided training to school staff about how to validate graduation rates.
  • Attended school support site visits, trianings, and conferences about student engagement, Title I, and special education.
  • Engaging in ongoing communications with schools to provide technical supports around addressing parent concerns and providing guidance on state reporting.

The Finance and Operations Team provided the following updates:

  • Staffing– a new administrative assistant was hired.

The Legal Team provided the following updates:

  • Due Process Complaints– continuing to monitor issues with individual schools related to special education.
  • Executive Director Recruitment
    • Interviews will be conducted on March 8th with the 6 finalists. Then, the Board will select 3 candidates to be sent to the Governor for final selection.
    • Working with HR team to do reference checks and organize the interview process and questions.

Click here to see a summary of team updates from the previous board meeting and the 6 finalists (1/18/19).

Updates on Legislative Session and Status of Assembly Bill 78 Language

Staff provided an update regarding the 2019 Legislative Session and Assembly Bill 78. Staff stated that SPCSA staff is in close contact with Gov. Sisolak’s team and with education committee leadership.  

  • Legislative Updates:
    • AB78 – The SPCSA and Nevada Department of Education bill has undergone major revisions and now includes 5 major themes:
      • Ensuring that schools are serving all students, including special education and homeless students
      • Accountability of authorizers in ensuring that all annual reporting requirements are being met. This already exists in regulation, but they would like to specifically include in statute.
      • Giving SPCSA regulatory authority. Currently, the SPCSA does not have the authority to adopt its own regulations.
      • Clarifying that the SPCSA is the Local Education Agency (LEA) for their schools that are not currently designated as an LEA themselves.
      • Consolidating and combining the SPCSA and ASD, specifically in an effort to increase equitable access to high quality charter schools for all students.
  • Note: ultimately, all of these changes are up to the legislature to approve and are not final unless the bill passes.
  • Going forward, legislative updates will be provided to the Board in a written summary format. The team will work on a process to provide the Board with periodic updates between board meetings.

Board Hears Updates About the Beacon Academy of Nevada

SPCSA staff provided the Board with information regarding Beacon Academy’s performance under the Alternative Performance Framework.

Beacon Academy only serves high-need students, including students who are credit deficient, adjudicated, on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), or have been habitually disciplined.

Click here to see the Beacon Academy 2017-2018 Report Card.

Click here to see the presentation.
Click here to read about Beacon Academy in the Nevada Independent.

Board Hears Quarterly Update From Discovery Charter School

The Discovery staff, their receiver, and their principal shared updates on the topics below on the second year of receivership:

  • Student enrollment and population
  • Lottery
  • Performance

The team is currently engaging in a process to identify a permanent operator for the school. They are also currently performing a feasibility study to assess the potential of adding 9th grade.

Board Heard Updates About the Closing of Nevada Virtual Academy

School staff met with families and provided a closure timeline, including a communications plan. They also provided an overview of progress of non-elementary grades.

Click here to see the presentation.

Board Heard Updates on Responses to the Interim Finance Committee

Staff provided the Board updates about responses due to the Interim Finance Committee (IFC) on February 1, 2019. SPCSA understands that there is one more report due to IFC regarding these questions before August 1st. Staff will bring the report before the Board in a draft form for input prior to submission.

Click here to see the Legislative Letter of Intent.

Public Comment

  • One local charter school leader talked about a positive experience during their site evaluation by the SPCSA. The school leader cited that the evaluators spent a significant amount of time in the classroom, debriefing with administrators, and facilitating focus groups with parents.
  • Announcement that February 27-28th is Public Charter School Days at the Capitol, which includes presentations and a policy dinner and reception with lawmakers.

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