Roosevelt Children's Academy, one of Long Island's oldest charter schools, won approval Tuesday for another five-year term from the state panel that earlier had questioned the school's finances.
Unanimous approval from the SUNY Board of Trustees Charter Schools Committee includes stipulations that the charter school continue to operate under an independent fiscal monitor, pledge not to expand beyond its current three facilities and continue to implement an academic improvement plan.
The crowd of charter school parents, students and staff who traveled into Manhattan to attend the three-member committee's meeting broke into applause at the decision.StoryFuture of LI charter school hangs in balanceStoryRenewal decision stalled for LI charter schoolStory1st LI charter school likely to be renewed
"I felt so strongly about the charter renewal. The school is so family-oriented," said parent Chadine Graham of Roosevelt.
Her daughter, fourth-grader Makayla Richards, 9, was thankful. "I like the way they teach me and they help me get better," she said.
The Rev. Reginald Tuggle, the academy's board president and one of its founders, agreed with the conditions and said he was ecstatic the charter was renewed.
"I am excited for our students and for our parents and for our staff, our teachers," Tuggle said. "Roosevelt Children's Academy is going to be around for a long time yet. We have much to do."
The school, founded in 2000 and one of five charter schools on Long Island, has about 700 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and draws mostly from the Roosevelt and Hempstead districts.
The academy now expects to move forward with plans to construct a new building for grades 3-8, using more than $20 million that it has in reserve funds.
The school recently won the rights, at a cost of more than $2 million, to purchase land on two adjacent lots, at 460 North Main St. in Freeport and 470 North Main St. in neighboring Roosevelt.
The academy currently leases its three sites, and with a new building would have two locations.
The charter renewal was postponed twice as the committee sought more information about the academy's finances, including more than $24 million in reserves.
The academy had come under fire for setting aside the funds to build a high school. Those plans were scrapped.
School officials at the meeting, held at the SUNY Global Center, told the panel that academic improvements have been made, with expenditure of more than $1 million to increase teacher salaries to reduce turnover.
The school has made major investments in technology, giving electronic tablets to students in grades 2-8 to help them in reading and math. And it has better captured student data through accountability software, which helps show whether children are learning concepts in the classroom, they said.
Joseph W. Belluck, the committee's chairman, initially had raised concerns about the school's reserves and plans to build a high school. Tuesday, he cautioned school officials to focus on current students -- not those to come.
"Schools should not be holding on to money at the risk of educating the students that are at the school," he said before the panel voted. "I know you hear me. I want to make the message loud and clear."
Students also testified at the hearing, urging that the school remain open.
Fifth-grader Rashad Gordon, 10, told the panel, "I love my school and I don't want to leave."
The SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which monitors some New York charter schools and makes recommendations to the committee, had recommended a five-year renewal.
The academy's current charter expires at the end of June.