Lotus School for Excellence - a publicly-funded charter school open to every* student
*some restrictions apply
Lotus School for Excellence is a publicly-funded Gulen charter school in Aurora, Colorado. While in principle Lotus should offer equal opportunities to all students, some items from the board minutes and other school documents are indicative of a strategy to attract a selective parent and student body.
Parent Council Meeting Agenda, Jan 10, 2008
"Mr. Gurler reported that we have received over 30 applications for the 2008-2009 school year. He also reported that a sound background check on disciplinary records, etc., is a part of the process for acceptance to Lotus."
What exactly is the “etc.” part?
Parent Involvement Letter, dated May 22, 2009
"A committee of parents will be planning events and activities for parent participation next year. In order to secure the parent participation, LSE Board and Parent Council agreed to implement mandatory “Parent Involvement” hours. For the 2009-10 school year, you will be asked to contribute at least 8 hours per family at Lotus. (If you have more than one child at Lotus you will only be required to work 8 hours.)
"We are aware that participation may not be possible due to your heavy work/family schedule. If this is the case, parents have the option to pay off any unserved hours at a rate of $10.00 per hour."
Colorado Charter Schools Act, 22-30.5-104(5): "a charter school shall not charge tuition." http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdechart/chact.htm
This practice of charter schools billing parents has been controversial in other parts of the country. On Dec 10, 2011, the Miami Herald ran a story on a mother who was told she had to pay $600 or her daughter wouldn't graduate from high school. The charge was for 120 hours of unfulfilled mandatory "volunteer" service. The mother "refused to pay and complained to the school district, which declined to get involved. The school ultimately allowed her daughter to graduate, and blamed the dispute on a miscommunication."
Aurora Public Schools School Improvement Plan 2010-11 for Lotus School For Excellence Sep 30, 2010
"Parent Volunteer Hours: Actions/timelines:
Lotus requires 8 hours of volunteer service from each family. PTO tracks these hours. Parent can help by serving lunch, running library, morning, lunch and after school supervisions, chaperoning school trips, sleepovers and camps, organizing fundraising activities and school events etc."
How can something that is “volunteer service” be ”required”?
Board meeting minutes, August 29, 2009
"Academics: Student handbook has changed. Removing 2.00 GPA and instead requiring minimum grade of C or high [sic] to pass core classes and pass the grade. Grade D is removed from grading policy. Everything below C is a failing grade."
In other words, if your child is below average in any subject, they must repeat the grade, which in practice means they must transfer to a district school.
Board meeting minutes, April 19, 2009
"Mr. Duffy had a suggestion that an article or a short ad in the Korean news paper for enrollment recruitment."
"Also, board suggested opening up a booth in front of the H-Mart Asian market to outreach to Asian families living in the area."
Note: these minutes did not include any mention of reaching out to any other subcommunities, ethnic or otherwise, to increase enrollment. This is targeting an ethnic group that statistically has a greater percentage of high-performing or more academically-oriented students.
Board meeting minutes, Sep 20, 2008
"Need to reinforce the quality of the school as a very good school that feels like a private school."
What does a private school “feel” like? Selective, perhaps?
Board meeting minutes, Jan 22, 2009
"To limit the cost of the lunch issue, we will have to make a decision to stop providing lunches at no cost to the free students."
I.e., low-income families that need to participate in the free lunch program will have to transfer to a district school.
Board minutes, May 12, 2011
"Next year, there will be an annual rental fee for textbooks and equipment which will be $50 for regular students, $20 for reduced-lunch students and there will not be any fee for free-lunch eligible students. The school does not expect a major increase in the income from this fee, but this will hopefully increase the participation into the lunch surveys so that we can get a better picture of [sic] school’s student population."
Some low-income families prefer to not participate in the free lunch program because of fear of stigmatization; why pressure them to pay fees simply to force them to disclose their income status?