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Neshaminy Denies Charter School Application

According to a Neshaminy School Board vote, MaST Charter School will not be coming to the district.

In a 4-3 vote on Monday night, the Neshaminy School Board denied MaST Charter School’s application to open a K-12 school within the district borders.

Dozens of district taxpayers filled the board room at the administrative offices. Residents both for an opposed to the charter facility spoke during the hearing.

In the end, board members Ritchie Webb, Irene Boyle, Mark Shubin and Scott Congdon voted against the application, while William Oettinger, Mike Morris and Anthony Sposato voted for it. Board members Kim Koutsouradis and Susan Cummings were absent from the meeting.

Webb, board president, said after the meeting that the charter school not having a finalized location in the district was one of several reasons he voted against the application. He also cited that Neshaminy’s previously approved School Lane Charter School had not yet opened and he wanted to see how that charter works before opening another.

A “disappointed” MaST CEO John Swoyer said after the meeting that the school is planning to appeal the board’s decision. From there, he would see where to go from there next.

Many parents at the meeting brought small signs supporting the charter school and spoke during public comment.

Langhorne resident Debbie Harker, who has been working to get MaST in the community, said she felt the charter school would add competition, forcing the public schools to improve.

Charles Alfonzo spoke in favor of adding the charter school and voiced his problem with a more than 35 minute video touting schools that the district played at the beginning of the hearing. The video, which focused on Neshaminy students’ accomplishments and technology, was called a “lie” by Alfonzo. After the meeting, he added that it reminded him of the “brainwashing” films he watched growing up in communist Cuba.

While several parents spoke in favor of adding the charter school to the district, some spoke against it.

“My desire for MaST is wrong," said Langhorne resident Wendy Schuchardt. She said her initial desire for the school was based on the results of her frustration about the Neshaminy labor dispute.

Others urged the district to deny the application and keep the money Neshaminy would have to pay MaST for educating their students in the public schools.

Neshaminy officials presented at the of the hearing information on their visit to the MaST location in Philadelphia.

Assistant Superintendent Jacqueline Rattigan said that while some aspects of the school impressed district officials, special education and variety of course offerings seemed limited.

She cited Neshaminy’s 75 course selections to MaST’s 14. AP course variety was also a concern, she said.

Swoyer rebutted later and said MaST offers special education comparable to any school district. He also added that Neshaminy has many more students and was able to offer more electives.

Some supporters of MaST coming to Neshaminy said after the meeting they plan to continue their campaign to the school to move into the district.

Tom Sofield February 12, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Correction: Resident Debbie Harker was mistakenly identified as Debbie Parker in an earlier version of this article.

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