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The Quest for Quest

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The State Board's decision to affirm the unanimous decision of the Charter Authorizing Panel's approval of Quest was the culmination of over fourteen months of work by parents to provide public secondary education where none exists. After over a year of mobilizing and planning, approval was a long overdue victory for the latest wave of parents seeking excellent public secondary education in their community.

The Responsive Education Solutions' school will open for the 2014-15 school year with grades six through eight and a maximum enrollment of 220. A high school will be added in 2015-16, expanding at least one grade each year thereafter to eventually include grades six through twelve and serve to 490 students.

As an open enrollment public school, admission to Quest is available to all students, no matter their resident school district. While some enrollment preference will be given to "founders" of the school, once enrollment reaches capacity, students will be admitted by lottery.

Further enrollment information will be made available when confirmed. Meanwhile, highly effective potential school leaders, faculty and staff should visit responsiveed.org/careers, where openings for all Responsive Education Solutions' schools are posted.

On November 6, 2012, seven Little Rock School District parents met with leaders of the Arkansas Parent NetworkArkansas Learns and Arkansans for Education Reform Foundation to discuss initial steps in creating an open enrollment public charter middle school in West Little Rock. The gathering was convened by Arkansas Learns and hosted by the Arkansas Public School Resource Center (APSRC) and its executive director, Scott Smith.

Charter schools are free public schools, open to all, which operate independently of traditional public school districts.

The group adjourned highly motivated by a consensus commitment to mobilize parents in support of the effort, while the APSRC gauged interest among the nation's top, performance-based charter management organizations.

The initial meeting was followed by a Town Hall at the Chenal Valley Church of Christ on December 4, 2012 which attracted 78 parents.

By June 24, 2013, the group had grown to over 220 parents when its leaders chose Responsive Education Solutions to create the Quest Middle School of West Little Rock. And on June 27th, ResponsiveEd submitted its Letter of Intent to Apply for an Open-Enrollment Public Charter School.

Supporters were encouraged to distribute and sign petitions in support of creation of the school and write and gather Letters of Support.

On August 27th, a Town Hall Meeting was held from 6:30 to 8:00 pm in the Auditorium of the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ to inform the public about the school. Approximately 80 guests asked questions and learned more about the proposed school from Virginia Perry and Derrick Graves of Responsive Ed and Rachelle Bloser and Pablo Valarezo, parents involved in the initiation of the school.

The Open-enrollment Public Charter School Application, with 306 petition signatures, 18 letters of support, and 222 Action Group members, was completed and submitted well before the Tuesday, September 3rd, 4:00 pm deadline. In addition to the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) Charter School Authorizing Panel, the application was shared with school districts potentially impacted by the proposed charter school.

On Thursday, October 24th, following a presentation by its attorney and associate superintendent, the Little Rock School Board voted unanimously to "not support the application."

On Thursday, November 14th, at 8:30 am in the auditorium of the Arkansas Department of Education, the application was heard by the Charter School Authorizing Panel of the Arkansas Department of Education. Following presentations by the Responsive Ed team (Arkansas Director Dr. Edwin Strickland, Parent Gary Newton, Chief Learning Officer Dr. Alan Wimberley, CEO Chuck Cook) and the Little Rock School District's representative (Associate Superintendent Dennis Glasgow), members of the Panel questioned both the applicants and their opposition.

After around two hours, upon a motion to approve by Dr. Megan Witonski and second by Mike Hernandez, all six Panel members voted in favor of the application.

Then, on Monday, December 16th, the Arkansas State Board of Education, in a 5 - 2 vote, agreed with the Little Rock and Pulaski County Special School Districts' attorneys' request for the Board to hear an appeal of the Panel's unanimous approval.

On January 10, 2014, the State Board afforded twenty minutes for the applicant, Responsive Education Solutions' Chief Counsel Chris Bauman, CEO Chuck Cook, and Chief Learning Officer Dr. Alan Wimberley, and Parents Gary Newton, Rachelle Bloser and Pablo Valarezo.

Twenty minutes were also given to the opposition, represented by Attorneys Chris Heller (Little Rock School District) and Sam Jones (Pulaski County Special School District). Dr. Jerry Guess, the state-appointed superintendent of the state-controlled Pulaski County Special School District, did not participate in the presentation, but was called to answer questions by the board

Following questions, answers and discussion, the board, in a final decision, voted 6 - 2 to affirm the Panel's approval. Quest will begin classes in August.

VIEW APPLICATION

Parents' Presentation of Need to State Board of Education

Gary Newton's Comments to Charter School Authorizing Panel

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