Moshannon Valley charter school group makes official pitch to district

The proposal for a charter school in the Moshannon Valley is official.

On Tuesday, Stephen Switala presented the Philipsburg-Osceola Area school board with an application for the Central Pennsylvania Charter Academy, a facility that would potentially serve secondary students from as many as eight local school districts.

The school’s stated mission is “to provide a strong liberal arts education that empowers students to be critical and creative thinkers through engagement with authentic content, knowledgeable faculty and inquisitive students. Individualized instruction addresses unique student learning needs, cultivates independent thought, builds character and prepares each student for a successful life.”

The application also included a lease proposal for P-O’s former Wallaceton-Boggs Elementary, a move that Switala said would provide the district with a way to save money on a building that is currently unoccupied and has been looked at for sale or auction. The academy’s proposal would allow for rent of just $1 annually, but regular maintenance would no longer be the district’s duty. The academy would be responsible for improvements, although the district would retain responsibility for the structure and roof.

Budget information also was provided in the disclosure. The proposed spending plan would be $797,651 per year, with $561,205 of that being salaries and benefits for the seven estimated employees. Currently a music teacher at Clearfield Junior High, Switala is listed in the plan as founder and CEO, and the CEO's salary is budgeted at $80,000. Other expenses include $26,075 in tablet computers, $20,000 in other instructional materials and $50,000 for Internet service.

And where would that money come from?

Home districts pay a fee per student for cyber or brick-and-mortar charter school education. P-O, for example, has 75 students in various charter schools, with a price tag of $757,503, for an average of slightly more than $10,000. Thirty of those are eighth- to 11th-grade students who would be eligible to attend the academy if it opens on schedule in the fall.

According to business manager Michael Conte’s financial report presented Tuesday, the amount spent per student for an education in P-O schools is $14,299.

The ball is now in the district’s court. A public hearing on the academy will be held Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. at Philipsburg Elementary. After that, the board has until Jan. 1 to approve the application. If it is denied for cause, Switala said the academy must be given adequate opportunity to address concerns. If the application is still denied, he said it will be appealed to the state.