Enrollment down at Carson City’s Silver State
As the school year opened this past week, Silver State Charter Schools in Carson City reported just 168 students enrolled at the high school.
Josh Kern, who was named the school’s receiver just a few weeks ago, told the state Public Charter School Authority that is well below the 280 student goal for this year but he’s not worried about the school’s financial health.
First, even though the school gets state funding on a per pupil formula — in Silver State’s case he said about $6,500 apiece — there’s a “hold harmless” provision in that formula that prevents any school district or charter from dropping more than a certain percent below the previous year’s funding.
Second, he said, he expects more enrollments over the next month.
“A lot of kids enroll in late August or September,” he said. “Last year, we got 100 kids so we could be much closer to that 280 target.”
Kern, who works for The Ten Square Group, said he expects the bad publicity over Silver State’s financial mismanagement and low graduation rates to hurt somewhat but he and the staff there are working hard to restore Silver State’s image in the Carson City area.
He also said he thinks the state authority will continue to work with Silver State to make the needed improvements.
“There’s an impression there’s a real need for this school and the authority would like to see it succeed.”
Kern said the goal is to get past some of the school’s immediate problems so the staff can focus on improvements to the education the school provides its students.
He told the authority Friday except for a nurse and one counselor, the school is fully staffed.
The authority voted last January to revoke Silver State’s charter and shut it down because the board violated state law by investing more than $3 million in public money in contracts not federally insured.
The authority also objected to the low graduation rate and low student achievement scores.
After six weeks of negotiations, they instead approved the deal disbanding the governing board and installing a receiver to run the school.
To stay open, the school must basically double last year’s 26.5 percent graduation rate over the next couple of years and raise performance scores dramatically as well as fix its financial management issues.
Silver State isn’t the only charter with graduation rate issues. Statewide, those schools graduate just about 40 percent compared to nearly 70 percent for the K-12 system.
One of the provisions in that agreement was to give school executive director Kit Kotler a year to see if changes she already made would improve Silver State’s performance. It was Kotler who pointed out that part of the problem with the graduation rate is many of Silver State’s students are three to four years behind in math and language skills when they arrive.
Kern, however, put Kotler on administrative leave after arriving.
He said there’s a provision allowing her termination for cause and he has asked for a hearing officer to review and evaluate the allegations behind his decision to put her on leave.
He declined to give any details.