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Brentwood charter school proposal stalled

An application to open a charter school in Brentwood in the fall of 2013 has been stalled by the state university panel that recommends such programs, officials said.

SUNY spokeswoman Cynthia Proctor would not elaborate on why the Charter Schools Institute rejected the application for Dignitas Academy Charter School, a proposed K-6 school for those learning English. She said many schools apply more than once before being approved.

Brentwood residents who attended a special board of education meeting Tuesday to discuss the proposed charter school railed against it, saying it would financially strain a struggling district.

About 75 people attended the public hearing, where officials summarized the mission of Dignitas, which sought to open at the closed St. Joseph's Academy and would have a cap of 456 students.

Stacy O'Connor, assistant superintendent for finance and operations for Brentwood schools, estimated the district would have to divert $27.8 million to Dignitas over five years if all students who attended the school are from Brentwood.

"This charter school is not taking any money out of [the school's] pocket, they're taking money out of our pockets," said trustee George Talley to applause from the crowd.

"Financially, we can't afford to do that," said former teacher and Brentwood resident William Moss.

Dignitas representative Brad Gerstman said organizers will prepare for the State University of New York's next application cycle, which starts in December. "There's no reason at this time to believe we would change course," Gerstman said, adding that "certainly the need exists" in Brentwood, where 28 percent of students are limited English proficient, said state education officials.

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