District, charter to work it out

DALLAS — A crowd of parents of Dallas Community School students gathered in the Dallas School District’s board room Monday night worried that the district might consider shutting down the charter school.

Two weeks ago, Oregon School Board Association Board Development Specialist Kristen Miles presented the results of her review of the charter school to the board.

She found the school is out of compliance with required instructional hours, offering a comprehensive educational program, and is below state and Dallas School District averages in academic performance. As the charter sponsor, it is the district’s job to assure DCS is meeting requirements.

DCS, in its third year of a five-year charter, is designed to provide resources for home-school families. Though the school has licensed teachers assigned as education guides for students, most instruction is provided by parents. Public schools, including charter schools, are required to offer a minimum amount of instruction by a licensed teacher.

While those issues concern members of the board and district staff, board members took no official action to terminate Dallas Community School’s charter. Instead, the board directed Superintendent Michelle Johnstone to work with DCS leaders to find solutions.

“The charter was just approved a few years ago. We knew there was going to be a few issues on startup,” said board member Michael Blanchard. “We want to not overlook the seriousness of some of the things that were in there, but … we want to find a way to continue to move forward.”

The board gave the school 90 days to report how it will address the compliance issues.

“I would like to thank the board for giving us the opportunity to work with Michelle and work through some of the deficiencies that were outlined in the report,” said DCS Director Bill Conlon. “We have taken that very seriously and some of the deficiencies we’ve already corrected. We’ll be happy to work with Michelle and show her what we’ve been working on.”

Parents and students thanked the board for being willing to work with DCS leaders.

“To me it is the best of both worlds,” said parent Amber Garrison, who has two daughters enrolled at DCS. “Dallas Community School offers the enrichments my kids wouldn’t otherwise take — choir, yoga and sign language.”

She said the school measures academic growth and performs entrance and exit evaluations to see if students are on track.

“The guides that oversee our family are teachers,” Garrison added. “They know our kids intimately. Our kids share their excitement or fears about certain subjects, and these hardworking teachers find resources that work for our family.”

Wendy Sparks, one of the founders of DCS, said she’s glad the collaborative relationship the school had with the district in the beginning of the charter still exists.

“I’m extremely pleased to hear that that spirit is going to continue to for next 90 days or so,” Sparks said.

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