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Roosevelt charter school's future in doubt

The Roosevelt Children's Academy Charter School, on Pleasant

The Roosevelt Children's Academy Charter School, on Pleasant Avenue, was established in 2000. It's seen here on Dec. 1, 2011. Photo Credit: J.C. Cherubini

The future of Roosevelt Children's Academy is hanging in the balance as the state committee responsible for renewing its charter Friday spotlighted $20 million the school earlier set aside to build a high school and requested a hearing with its officials on finances and academic performance.

"I have some significant concerns about approving the renewal of the school . . . and I am very concerned about the fiscal issues involving the money that was taken from state aid and stockpiled for future facility use," Joseph W. Belluck, chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees Charter School Committee, said at a meeting in Albany.

The three-member panel voted unanimously against accepting the five-year renewal recommendation made in January by the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which monitors some New York charter schools and makes recommendations to the committee. The panel postponed action on the renewal at its Feb. 3 meeting.

The academy's charter will expire if it is not renewed in late June. Should that occur, the school -- which has kindergarten through eighth grade -- could close at the end of the academic year. The last day of classes is June 23, according to its website.

The Rev. Reginald Tuggle, president of the school's board of education, said he was shocked by the decision. The school provided the committee with information it requested, and plans for the high school had been scrapped, he said.

"I was under the impression the questions had been answered and the Charter Institute staff had vetted the school, and I am shocked as anyone else," said Tuggle, who was not present at Friday's meeting. "There will be a hearing, and once again I will make it clear that we are in a new situation and we have a new administration. They kept referencing events that happened two years ago, and that was a surprise to me."

No hearing date was set.

The school, founded in 2000, has been on probation and operating under a corrective plan, with fiscal oversight. Monitors have noted that improvements were made, and that several of the financial and academic issues occurred under previous school leaders.

While students' scores on state tests had been declining, monitors also have said the school has been spending money on the academic program.

Concerns regarding the $20 million-plus that the academy set aside for a high school arose at the committee's February meeting, when the charter renewal first came up for consideration.

Student registration for the 2015-16 year is underway. The academy has been looking for space to house the current student population, now in trailers and rentals.

Monitors said they will ask Roosevelt charter educators to let parents know its renewal is not guaranteed and they may look at other options. Two charter schools are in nearby Hempstead.

Tuggle said the school has invested in technology and better captured student data by using accountability software, which helps show whether children are learning concepts in the classroom.

"Academically, it looks very promising," he said.

If Roosevelt Children's Academy is closed, any remaining funds ultimately would be transferred to the students' home districts.

In a notice to parents, students and staff posted on the school's website, Tuggle wrote, in part: "I am positive and I am not the only one to believe that we will be successful in making our case at the hearing and that our charter will, in fact, be renewed."

The state committee approved a five-year renewal for Child Development Center of the Hamptons in Wainscott, which has fewer than 70 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The charter school has an integrated program for general education, special education and gifted students, school officials have said.

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