Charter school gets 5-year renewal

Superintendent had recommended 2 years

LEADS Charter School will continue to operate at Hillcrest Primary School for another five years after the Shawano School Board voted Monday to renew its contract.

The five years was what the school had originally sought, but Gary Cumberland, Shawano School District superintendent, recommended that the board only renew the contract for two years, as it had done in 2016.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s two years, but I recommended two years to see where some of our funding ends up after two years,” Cumberland said. “There might have to be some alterations made to our plans.”

That idea did not sit well with some of the board members.

Board member Alysia Pillsbury felt two years was not adequate time for LEADS to plan for the long term, as it would mean school officials would have to return to the board in 2020 and request the same thing all over again.

“I wouldn’t want to be hanging on by a thread knowing I’m only going to be doing something for two years,” Pillsbury said. “I think that two years is too temporary.”

As a public charter school, LEADS is a part of the Shawano School District but operates under different guidelines than other public schools.

Board member Michael Sleeper noted that, with the state voucher program in place allowing district students to attend parochial schools and giving parents a choice, LEADS serves as another choice that would keep students in Shawano. Sleeper pointed out that the overall student count has dropped again, although the number of students coming from other districts via open enrollment has gone up.

“In public education, we need to be very proactive and progressive in offering options and choices,” Sleeper said. “If we think we can keep doing things the same old way and that people just show up because they live in the district, that’s not always the case.”

Sleeper added that any funding issues that Cumberland was concerned with would impact all the schools, not just LEADS.

LEADS Charter School was established in 2012 and came up for renewal two years ago. If the board had voted not to renew the contract, the school would have ended after school let out in June 2019.