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Charter authority sends director recommendations to Gov. Sisolak

Updated March 8, 2019 - 10:53 pm

The current leader of the Achievement School District charter school initiative could take the helm of the state Public Charter School Authority if Gov. Steve Sisolak approves the recommendations authority members passed Friday.

The board voted to forward Rebecca Feiden, acting executive director of the achievement district, as its top choice for executive director of the authority.

The agency, responsible for approving state-sponsored charter schools that collectively serve over 42,000 students, has searched for an executive director following the resignation of Patrick Gavin last year.

Members also voted Mark Modrcin, the agency’s current director of authorizing, as their second choice and Sami Randolph, former associate general counsel for Shelby County Schools in Tennessee, as their third.

Feiden stressed strong accountability practices and the need to grow quality school choice options in underserved communities.

“I think we all have an obligation to make sure that students have access to great schools,” she told the board. “This would be a priority if I had the opportunity to lead this agency.”

Authority members searched for the best of the five remaining applicants, focusing on how they would diversify the charter authority’s student body, work with statewide educational stakeholders and hold underperforming schools accountable.

As the authority’s portfolio of schools has expanded, it has struggled to keep up with mirroring the special populations served in other districts throughout the state, particularly among free- or reduced-price-lunch students.

Modrcin, whose work involves authorization of charter schools, also stressed the need to develop top-notch schools in areas of the state that need it most.

The authority should be respectful of schools’ autonomy, he said, but communicate its expectations to them.

“In an authorizing role, you are tempted to be able to say, ‘This is what I think you should do,’ but that’s not what our role is,” he said. “Our role is to be able to say, ‘This is where the line is. We need you to be able to meet or exceed that line. Please present us with a plan that you think that will perhaps get you there.’”

Randolph said that in three years, the authority should be a model for charter school authorizing, have a diverse student enrollment and have diverse staffers working in its schools.

Increasing the number of free- or reduced-price-lunch students, she said, starts with an examination of how students end up in existing schools.

“There are things that the general population may not consider or view to be an enrollment barrier that truly, in fact, may be an enrollment barrier,” she said.

The board will draft a letter to send to the governor, who will choose the next director.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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