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A dropout-recovery charter high school in Little Rock is cutting ties with its national charter management organization and acquiring a new name.

On Tuesday, the state's Charter Authorizing Panel unanimously approved a request by local leaders of the School for Integrated Academics and Technologies, or SIATech, to separate from the NEWCorp organization that had established the Arkansas campus in 2011 to serve up to 275 students in grades nine through 12.

NEWCorp, which stands for New Education for the Workplace, oversees a network of almost two dozen schools that are mostly in California and Florida.

Alterations in the Little Rock school -- which are now subject to final approval by the Arkansas Board of Education -- call for the newly independent campus to continue its mission to reach young people who have been unsuccessful for any number of reasons in traditional high schools and to help them achieve a diploma.

The school intends to do that with a new curriculum and a new name: Graduate AR, school Director Katie Hatley told the panel.

The changes would be effective July 1.

Hatley said the current curriculum and technology support for it are SIATech properties. She and other school leaders are seeking another curriculum that is academically rigorous but also provides interventions and support to those who struggle to learn.

Chris Bell, business manager for the Little Rock school, said the national NEWCorp organization last year had pulled back some services to the Little Rock campus and reduced its management fee, which was $288,670 in the 2017-18 school year, to $149,240.

But the management fee is expected to increase for the coming school year to more than $275,887, Bell said, adding that most of the management company services -- administration, human resources management and facilities support -- can be provided locally.

By not renewing the management company contract, the Little Rock campus will have to replace and pay for the curriculum and technology provided by the company. That will cost about $60,700, he said. Still, Bell said, the school will save more than $215,000.

The state's Charter Authorizing Panel -- made up of Department of Education staff and various state civic leaders -- had no concerns about the school's ability to afford the transition. The panel did direct Hatley, the school's founding director and soon to be its superintendent, to report back to the panel in October on the selection of curriculum for the school and any staffing changes.

SIATech was initially approved by the state Board of Education in 2011 -- with a rare charter school endorsement from the Little Rock School District -- to operate in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor's Job Corps Center in Little Rock.

The school plan was to serve people ages 16-22, most of whom lived at the Jobs Corps Center and were in a job-training program. The school had an open-entry, open-exit design that enabled students to work on academics year-round.

The charter school dropped its affiliation with Job Corps in 2013 when the rules changed to no longer allow non-Job Corps students to participate in the school. The split caused the school to move to its current location, 6724 Interstate 30.

In 2017, the school received state approval to operate a four-day class week, with extended instructional time on Tuesdays and Thursdays and no classes on Friday as a way to improve student attendance and enable students to work or meet other commitments on Fridays.

Metro on 05/15/2019

Print Headline: Panel to back school's split with manager

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