A student from Dynamic Community Charter School (DCCS) wrote an opinion column in today’s News and Observer. Entitled “A life-changing school where everyone fits in,” Bailey describes his long, miserable years of educational and social struggles. Diagnosed at age 3 with Asperger’s, he found himself without friends, considered “a freak of nature.” Fast forward to this year, where he is now a member of Dynamic Community Charter School, where all students are identified as having special needs. Bailey describes his initial skepticism and then joy in discovering an environment where he is no longer an isolate and no longer bullied. He “can’t survive” in a regular public school and will drop out if Dynamic is closed.
DCCS is facing an uphill battle against the State Board of Education, which seems determined to put an end to this special school. The board cites three reasons, according to DCCS’ website: funding, teacher licensure, and IEP compliance. I’ll briefly describe the issues but encourage you to visit their website and read for yourself. The funding issue resulted from their previously home-schooled kids not receiving state funding for much of the year. (One-third of this school’s students had been home-schooled as an alternative to public schools which failed to met their child’s needs.) The school is now solvent due to incredible and varied fundraising events by families who love DCCS. Most of their teachers are EC certified but they have lost a few staff members due to ongoing uncertainty about the school’s future. Four teachers are working on their certification, which would make all teachers certified. No one at DCCS seems concerned about IEP compliance. They report that was an issue BEFORE they got to Dynamic. The school was audited two months after opening but not given a chance to respond to timelines and recommendations. In January, the state board said the school would not be closed, then at a February meeting of which they had no notice, full closure of the school was recommended by the state.
I am utterly dismayed by the state’s recommendation. Does it have some ax to grind against Dynamic Community Charter School? Must all special needs kids be mainstreamed? If parents, staff, administrators, and students are overwhelmingly positive about this fledgling school, why should the state be pushing for closure? Does the state simply close its eyes to the fact that kids with IEPs are not always served by certified teachers? I now teach one special needs student who had a retired regular education teacher as a year-long substitute for EC services. I also know of other situations where students did not receive the support to which they were entitled through their IEP. Dynamics’s parents are desperate but savvy. If their children’s IEPs were not being met, do you seriously think they would be fighting for this school’s survival?
How you can help: Please sign DCCS’ online petition (through Change.org)! I am usually reluctant to sign something online but I strongly believe that these folks should have a chance to continue their creative endeavor to meet the needs of their kids. Please! It took me just a couple of minutes to fill out a simple form. Currently, they have 1,725 signatures with a goal of 2,500. As Bailey concluded: “I beg the State Board of Education to let Dynamic stay so that all of its students have a school they are happy to go to every day to learn and spend time with friends.”
Are these kids and their teachers superheroes? YES! See for yourself below.