Parents speak up in Einstein charter's favor

Posted: September 11, 2003

Parents who still want their children educated by the now-closed Einstein Academy Charter School have been writing to one of the judges set to hear today's challenge to the revocation of the cyber school's charter.

Ann Marie Daly of Port Richmond, whose 15-year-old daughter, Ashley, had been enrolled in the Internet-based school, said that more than 25 families had sent letters to Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini, urging him to focus on the educational needs of their children during the appeal.

Pellegrini is a member of a three-judge panel scheduled to hear the case in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg today.

"The parents have not been heard in this," said Daly, one of the leaders of a group called Parents on the Einstein Waiting List. "We understand that there were problems in the past . . . but we don't think closure is the solution. We want our educational options left to us."

The school, which offered online instruction to students across the state in their homes, closed this summer.

For months, Einstein has been fighting a decision by the Morrisville School District to revoke the charter it granted the school in 2001. The Bucks County district contended that the school had mismanaged funds and shortchanged its special education students.

The state Charter Appeals Board upheld the district's decision in May. Einstein then appealed to Commonwealth Court.

Daly said that throughout the battle over Einstein's charter, the debate has centered on complaints of the district, the state Department of Education, and some parents who were critical of the school.

"The parents whose children have had very positive educational experiences have been relatively unheard," said the letter that the parents' group drafted and that most of the 25 parents sent to Pellegrini.

The state is home to eight other cyber schools, but parents told the judge that they "feel that our continued desire to enroll students in Einstein is a clear indicator that Einstein is the best educational choice for our children."

Daly, whose daughter is being home-schooled this year, said the parents wrote only to Pellegrini because they did not know which other judges would be assigned to today's panel.

Last month, Pellegrini heard Einstein's request for a stay that would have allowed it to operate during its court challenge. Pellegrini denied that request but said he would try to expedite the hearing on Einstein's appeal so it would be able to open this year if it wins its suit.

Barry Delit, president of the Einstein board and the school's chief executive officer, said 700 students interested in enrolling had placed their names on the school's waiting list. The K-12 cyber school, based in Bucks County, opened two years ago. During the first year, nearly 3,000 students were on its rolls.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@phillynews.com.

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