UMKC revokes charter for Derrick Thomas Academy

U-News Staff

Charter schools have increased in popularity over the past decade.

Nearly 10,000—roughly 40 percent—of the students in the Kansas City, Missouri School District attend charters, up from 35 percent last year.

In Missouri, charter schools are required to have sponsors, which are tasked with monitoring their progress.

UMKC now sponsors 12 charter schools in the Kansas City district, after recently announcing a decision not to renew the charter of Derrick Thomas Academy (DTA).

Low test scores and poorly managed finances have created an uncertain future at DTA, which UMKC has sponsored since its inception in 2001.

If DTA is unable to find another sponsor, the school will close its doors at the end of the 2012-’13 school year. This could leave more than 900 local students looking for a new school next fall.

In early April, Jerry Cooper, former director of the Charter Schools Center at UMKC, sent a strongly worded warning to administrators and board leaders at DTA.

The role of UMKC as DTA’s sponsor is to hold schools academically and financially accountable, along with providing resources and consultation. The Letter said that DTA was meeting the criteria for being “financially stressed” by operating with a deficit of more than $600,000.

Cooper laid out several of the violations DTA had committed, including breaking a contract with management company Edison Learning without sponsor approval.

The letter also explained how DTA was on “academic probation” for low state assessment scores and was out of compliance with several federal and state special education requirements.

“Failure to provide the required budget and educational plan will result in the non-renewal of the charter for Derrick Thomas Academy,” the letter said.

Passage of Missouri S.B. 576 earlier this year modified the laws governing charter schools, making it easier for sponsors to revoke a school’s charter.

The Charter School Center at UMKC has been around since 1999.

“We have three charter schools who are exceeding expectations and looking to expand,” said Dr. Phyllis Chase, Director of the Charter School Center. “We are working to make sure the transition between the closing of Derrick Thomas Academy and the students finding a new school is seamless. These charter schools are willing to absorb the students displaced by the closing of Derrick Thomas Academy. This has been one of our utmost priorities.”

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