West Virginia’s new Professional Charter School Board took steps today toward launch.
The board, which was established by the Legislature earlier this year, is laying the groundwork of hiring an executive director, identifying some office space, establishing a website and determining some financial resources.
The board met virtually for a little less than an hour this morning.
West Virginia has no charter schools so far, after passing a state law allowing them in 2019.
The Legislature this year expanded that law to allow more charter schools and to expand the ways they could apply or appeal.
House Bill 2012 increased the number of locally-operating charter schools that could be approved in a three-year period from three to 10. And it laid the groundwork for charter schools that would operate virtually.
Previously, county school boards were authorizers for charter schools. The bill added a West Virginia Professional Charter School Board as an authorizer.
Board members include: former Greater Beckley Christian School boys basketball coach Brian Helton; John Waltz, the vice president for enrollment management at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Upshur County; Dewayne Duncan, a real estate developer in Kanawha County and former Republican candidate for Kanawha County Commission; Karen Bailey-Chapman, owner of public relations firm KB Advocacy in Jefferson County and a board member of the libertarian Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy; and Adam Kissel, a senior fellow at the Cardinal Institute.
So far, the board is working on a few practical matters.
Website and email: The board described some progress on an online presence, which would be important for communicating with the public, charter school applicants and applicants for an executive director’s position.
Money: The board briefly talked about how to identify some financial support.
One possibility discussed was discretionary funds from the Governor’s Office. Another was finding help from the Department of Education to identify grants.
Office space: Board members talked about trying to find some state government office space to be headquarters. There was some discussion of state government space being available, in part because some state employees have continued working remotely.
“I’m happy to make contact with folks in different government agencies,” said state Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, a nonvoting member of the board.
Board members seem to prefer office space in Charleston to interact with other sectors of state government and with the Legislature. There was some sentiment that a new executive director might sometimes be able to work remotely but should have some office space too.
Executive director: The board needs to hire one.
Some questions revolved around practical matters like not having the other resources — particularly funding — in place yet.
“We can at least write a job description, have that ready to go,” said Kissel, chairman of the board. “We can even be interviewing applicants and the job description can say dependent on funding.”
Rucker said it’s important for every application to be seen by a lawyer and suggested the Attorney General’s Office could be willing to help.
Ongoing issues: The board set a meeting date of 9 a.m. Sept. 17 to revisit matters, particularly a job description for the executive director.
Board members also went into executive session and noted that one topic likely to come up was notification of a lawsuit over the new charter schools law.
A West Virginia legal organization last week gave notice of its intent to sue over new laws expanding charter school possibilities.
The brief letter from Mountain State Justice indicated the new law expanding charter schools possibilities, House Bill 2012, will be challenged on grounds that it violates the West Virginia Constitution‘s section that says “no independent free school district or organization shall hereafter be created except for the consent of the school district or districts out of which the same is to be created, expressed by a majority of voters voting on the question.”