An emotional and tension-packed night at Jacksonville High School concluded with District 117 board members rejecting 8 Points Charter School’s proposal for contract renewal.
The meeting brought in the largest crowd for any District 117 meeting in years and stretched for more than four hours.
During that time, members of the community, officials from 8 Points Charter and District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek received designated time to provide statistics and personal opinions on the charter renewal.
Around a dozen students and parents affiliated with 8 Points Charter took the stage first to share stories of success and how the school has impacted the surrounding community.
Several former students like Melanie Tressler broke down in tears when reflecting on how much 8 Points had improved their education experience.
“Every student comes into charter learning at different rates. I started at the lowest class I could be put in to, and I worked my way up. The quote, not to judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge charter by its test scores. You should judge charter at the way they build these students,” Tressler said.
“I’m a freshman [in high school], and I feel that I went in stronger than I ever would have if I went in through the public schools,”
8 Points Principal Bridget English addressed the school board next to make her case for contract renewal.
English noted the basic premise of the school is to teach children to thrive in all aspects of life.
In English’s opinion, there is a “misconception” that 8 Points is an academic failure. She pointed out that students who spent four consecutive years at the charter school have actually shown strides.
English provided statistics that showed a large chunk of four-year students who entered 8 Points with low MAP scores are now improving to average or high MAP standings.
English noted the statistics provided by District 117 showed every student at 8 Points Charter, including incoming students each year who haven’t had time to adjust to a different environment.
English added that “not every student needs 8 Points Charter”, but the multitude of unique programs make 8 Points a valuable asset to many students in the district.
English ended her presentation by asking the board for two more years of charter support, which would include an evaluation from the board every six months.
Dr. Bridina Lemmer, an Illinois State Board of Education state assessment consultant from 2013-2015, spoke on behalf of 8 Points Charter as well.
Being someone who worked closely with the ISAT exam, Lemmer informed board members not to look at just state test scores, because tests measure performance, not achievement. Lemmer noted the purpose of the test is to “find which school districts need extra help through their statewide system of support.”
Lemmer added that state tests only show if a student is meeting grade levels and do not show any student growth.
Ptacek would follow that up with detailed statistics and information provided in previous meetings that compared schools from District 117 to 8 Points Charter.
Board members went back and forth discussing several issues in the contract before casting a final vote of 4-2 in favor of moving forward with a resolution of non-renewal. Cheryl Ballard and Steve Cantrell were the “no” votes. Corinne Wagner chose to “abstain.”
Ptacek commented on the action taken by the board.
“I think the board established the groundwork of accountability that we plan on using throughout all our buildings in district. The charter has the right to appeal the decision to the ISB and State Charter Commission,” he says.
“I feel very confident in our data and looking at the other results the charter commission has looked at, our charter school has proven it is performing worse than our similar, local district schools. That is a big criteria that the state looks at.”
You can listen to raw audio featuring all of the public comments made during last night’s meeting by visiting clicking the links below.
English plans to release an official statement on behalf of 8 Points Charter Thursday afternoon.