As Frederick Classical Charter School (FCCS) continues to excel in student achievement, the school’s board and administration are hoping to start conversations about gaining more autonomy.
The Maryland Charter Law states that being an “eligible public charter school” means the school can negotiate to be exempt from certain policies of the local school system.
To become an eligible school, Frederick Classical Charter School would be required to meet certain criteria, including sound financial standing and data showing student achievement meets or exceeds academic proficiency levels set by the Maryland State Board of Education.
FCCS is north of the Monocacy River near Clustered Spires Golf Club. It offers classical education to kindergarten through eighth grade. The classical approach puts the emphasis on liberal arts and teaches children in three stages — grammar, logic and rhetoric — which is often referred to as the “trivium.”
After presenting the school’s annual update to the Frederick County Board of Education, Nkechi Ileka-Adeoye, president of the FCCS board of trustees, asked for the conversation about eligibility to begin.
“We would like if you guys can extend that invitation for us to come back and have that conversation and talk about what the next steps will be for us,” Ileka-Adeoye said.
Michael Markoe, deputy superintendent for FCPS, who is filling in for Terry Alban this week while she attends a national conference, suggested having two more meetings: the first to discuss the criteria for eligibility and how FCCS is meeting the requirements, and the second to take action and grant the school eligibility.
If the school becomes eligible, it will be able to exempt itself from local policies such as textbook and curriculum requirements and class size and staffing ratios.
FCCS is one of three public charter schools in the county and is the first to request the status of an eligible school.
In the presentation, Camille Bell, head of school for FCCS, went through large amounts of data showing how well the students are performing.
In math in particular, 50.7 percent of FCCS students are meeting proficiency levels. Countywide, 46.1 percent of all elementary and middle schoolers are meeting those levels.
Bell said they have also been working hard to address equity in their school.
“We had a laser focus last year and we really wanted to work on closing the achievement gap and work on providing an equitable access ... to the curriculum as well as maintaining rigor in our program,” she said.
While she admitted that the school needs to work on addressing needs in its special education and English Language Learner populations, she said she is happy with the data overall.
“When I see numbers like this and trajectories and trends like this, I’m very proud to be the leader of Frederick Classical Charter School. ... I’m just elated at what I’m seeing this year,” Bell said.
Board of Education President Brad Young said he would like to see data regarding how well students transition to public high school after attending FCCS.
Bell said many families end up going back to the county’s traditional public schools because they are not able to arrange transportation since FCPS provides no bus service.
The school does have difficulty retaining students who enter at the middle school level, Bell said.
“When our kids come in middle school, oftentimes their adjustment is much harder than when they come in in elementary school because the order in which we teach is different. So kids will come in and they will struggle right away,” Bell said, adding that many support systems are in place to help with the change.
FCCS is also looking at obtaining land to build their own school and is hoping to acquire something in the next three years. Jen Schneider, treasurer of the school’s board of trustees, said that once the acquisition process is done, the conversation about adding bus service for students can begin.
For now, the school plans to renew its lease at its current location.