Arkansas' Charter Authorizing Panel on Tuesday denied an application for the 2023 establishment of an open-enrollment charter school in Cabot, citing gaps in the planning for the Omni Classical Prep.
School planners -- led by Melissa Bosch, who earlier this year got crosswise with Cabot School District leaders over a perceived threat to the district -- can now ask the Arkansas Board of Education to conduct its own hearing on the proposed school as soon as next month.
Or, planners can choose to revise and resubmit an application for a school to open in the 2024-25 school year.
"We need quality schools and you have a lot of great qualities that you have identified ... but the connections are not all hooked together," Deborah Coffman, the state's assistant commissioner for school accountability and chairman of the charter panel, told Bosch about the proposal.
Coffman made the comments after the panel held a nearly three-hour review of the proposal and voted 4-2 to deny it.
Panel members Kim Davis, Toyce Newton, Karli Saracini and Sonja Wright-McMurray voted to deny, although several highlighted the amount of work and passion the planners had invested in the proposal.
Panel members Phil Baldwin and Mark Zellner voted against the motion, saying they believed the proposal could be clarified and deficiencies addressed in a shorter period -- before the next cycle of applications. They preferred to table a vote on the plan to give the applicants time in this cycle to respond to the concerns about the school's budget, special education services, administrative chain of command and career education offerings.
Bosch, a U.S. Air Force veteran and the mother of four including a child with special needs, said the proposed school would initially serve up to 200 in kindergarten through eighth grades. The goal would be to use the Hillsdale College Curriculum model of classical education as a way increase math and literacy scores.
The school would provide a 100% inclusive environment, in which teacher and counselor in a classroom would focus on each child's emotional, physical and academic difference, Bosch said. A curriculum centered on teaching children with dyslexia would be used schoolwide to benefit all students. Character education, fine arts and foreign language starting with the youngest pupils would be incorporated into the school.
Panel members had questions about how the school would comply with a student's Individual Education Plan for special education services if that plan required that the student be taught in a resource room away from general education students.
Earlier this year, Bosch was accused by Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman of threatening in a 30-second social media video clip from a June Moms for Liberty meeting to shoot employees in the district. Bosch argued that the clip was taken out of context. Thurman and Bosch filed reports with police. Police cleared Bosch of making a threat but Thurman continued to prohibit Bosch from being on school property without permission in advance. Bosch has filed suit in federal court against Thurman, the school district and the city of Cabot.
Brian Holowell spoke Tuesday to the charter panel in opposition to the Omni Classical Prep school plan, saying its intent was to promote Christian nationalism and a history of the nation that fits their agenda.