New DougCo school board approves GOP-backed charter high school

Fresh off an ugly campaign, the brand-new Douglas County School Board unanimously gave conditional approval to a proposed charter school, STEM High, Tuesday night.

The vote had garnered attention because of the cozy relationship between the charter school’s board chair Mark Baisley and three newly elected, and one re-elected, board members . The four comprise a “conservative bloc” and now hold a voting majority. Individually, and as vice chair for the Douglas County Republican Party, Baisley electioneered for the four new board members, all of whom ran on a pro-charter school platform.

Mark Baisley, Douglas County GOP Vice-Chair and STEM High Board President
Mark Baisley, Douglas County GOP Vice-Chair and STEM High Board President

The matter was further complicated by the fact that, for a while, it was unclear which board would actually be voting on the new charter school. A last-minute request by STEM High, however, put the vote off until the new board could be sworn in.

But EdNews Colorado reports that while the board was easier on the proposed school than was staff (which had recommended the conditional approval), they did hold the line on several issues:

If Baisley was hoping the new GOP hand-picked board would overlook such concerns and automatically grant the school its charter, he was disappointed. Board members pressed for assurances that district concerns would be addressed. But they did extend the deadlines, and softened the language to make it harder for the school to lose its charter…

In the end, board members lowered the minimum students that agree by Feb. 15 to enroll in the STEM school for next fall, from 595 to 525. The school can continue to enroll new students, but after Feb. 15, the school can only enroll students from outside the district, so as not to adversely affect enrollment at other Douglas County schools.

The board also extended the deadlines to meet certain other conditions – such as developing performance standards, coming up with a detailed budget and hiring a principal – from March 1 to April 1.

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