The board, district staff, and advisory committees dedicated hundreds of hours to thoroughly review the application, on a short, accelerated timeline after the Colorado State Board of Education directed the school district to review Ascent’s charter application within 30 days.
The DAAC committee reviewed the application based on rubric criteria provided to Ascent Classical Academy. Based on their review, DAAC recommended to not approve the application as submitted.
District staff found that just eight of 35 criteria met district rubric standards, and recommended to not approve the application as submitted.
After hearing public testimony, staff, and DAAC recommendations, the Durango School District 9-R Board of Education voted to not approve Ascent Classical Academy’s charter school application as presented.
In discussion, the board highlighted numerous positive aspects of Ascent’s application, and the benefits that a classical education model could provide to the Durango community. Nonetheless, the board determined that the proposed Ascent Classical Academy is not in the best interest of the students, the community, and the district. The board adopted a resolution that outlines its findings. Among other things, Ascent presented a replication charter school that is not be tailored to the unique needs or population of the District, It would be governed by a board based in Golden, Colorado, and would be operated by a manager contractually affiliated with Hillsdale College and its Barney Charter School Initiative. Ascent’s application also did not provide evidence that all students would have equal educational opportunity, regardless of disability, native language, income, color, or gender diversity. In addition, no facility plan was provided, and questions about the school’s financial plan were left unanswered. During the review period, Ascent was asked to explain why it requested waivers from dozens of District policy, and rather than provide the information, it withdrew the waiver requests, leaving numerous potential conflicts with the local community’s values. Furthermore, Ascent’s application and conduct indicated that it was not seeking a collaborative relationship with the District and intends for there to be no interaction beyond what would be required by law or a charter contract.