SALT LAKE CITY— The Utah State Charter School Board has withdrawn its approval of LEAP Academy, a nascent charter school in Davis County.
Following a 1 ½-hour discussion on LEAP Academy's progress toward its planned opening in the 2019-20 school year, the board voted 6-1 Thursday to withdraw its earlier approval over concerns whether the school would be able to open on time or get off to a successful start.
While board members repeatedly complimented the charter school board directors’ respective skill sets, they questioned if they had the time to complete the state board’s processes and meet deadlines.
Board Vice Chairman DeLaina Tonks noted that the charter school board had approved the school’s application in January but the LEAP Academy’s directors did not hold a board meeting until June.
“If you don’t have time to sit down to meet as a board, you don’t have time to open a school,” Tonks said.
Marty Carpenter, chairman of LEAP Academy’s board of directors, said members of the school’s board of directors had worked independently on different aspects of opening and operating the school and had kept one another apprised of their work instead of conducting regularly scheduled meetings.
Carpenter said the directors had made progress on many requirements.
Board member Stephanie Speicher, who said she has served on the boards of schools and nonprofit organizations, said she was attracted to serving on LEAP Academy’s board because of the caliber of the board members.
“We are strong. We work efficiently. The last thing I want to do is create more work for the board, for everyone in this room,” said Speicher, who is on the faculty of Weber State University and a former charter school principal.
Carpenter, for instance, works in governmental affairs. He oversaw Gov. Gary Herbert’s most recent re-election campaign.
Another board member couldn’t attend Thursday’s meeting because he was performing surgery.
Carpenter told the board that after working with the Davis School District to find a suitable site for the school, the directors had placed an option on a site in Syracuse.
“We’re still in that ‘measure twice, cut once mode,’” with respect to site tests to ensure the location is suitable for a school, he said.
According to the school’s proposal, LEAP Academy planned to serve 648 students in grades K-7 to start and increase up to 810 students in grades K-9 by its third year.
LEAP is short for Lead, Educate, Achieve and Perform.
“The mission of LEAP Academy is to create an educational coaching culture that facilitates learning and results in high academic student achievement along with development of the whole child,” the school's proposal states.
Carpenter said LEAP Academy's board was surprised by the Utah State Charter School Board’s decision.
“Our efforts have been delayed slightly because we were committed to work with the (Davis School) district that would better position the school for long-term success. We were set to complete that decision next month and we were hopeful the board would ask us to come back and show appropriate progress. Unfortunately, they did not,” Carpenter said.
The school's directors could reapply for approval for next year, which means it needs to resubmit its application for consideration by Nov. 9.
"At this time we are discussing how to best proceed,” Carpenter said.