Thursday, April 20, 2017

Charter panel recommends revoking charter of Covenant Keepers

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 10:17 AM

The Arkansas Department of Educations's Charter Authorizing Panel voted to revoke the charter issued to Covenant Keepers College Preparatory School yesterday. The panel cited governance, academic and financial problems for the school, open since 2008 and located at 5615 Geyer Springs Road, Cynthia Howell of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

The vote was 6-1. The State Education Board will now consider whether to revoke the charter at its May 11 meeting. If it follows the advice of the panel, it will be the first time the state has revoked a charter since 2011.

Howell reported that Stacy Smith, an Education Department assistant commissioner for learning services and a member of the authorizing panel questioned Covenant Keepers Superintendent Valerie Tatum about her $138,000 annual salary.

"How is it possible for you to have that type of salary? Heck, I want that job. That would be a great raise for me," Smith said. Smith earns about $112,573, according to state records.

Tatum said that the salary is the result of her long hours of work — sometimes 16 to 18 hours a day — as an advocate for the school in southwest Little Rock and as the driving force behind the school's improved academic achievement. A total of 50.896 percent of students scored at proficient this past spring on state tests, up from 42.986 percent of students in 2015, according to information provided by the charter school.

"Eight points — that's Dr. Tatum," Tatum said of herself and predicted the percentages will increase again after testing is completed this month. "Yes, it looks pretty on paper, but I will tell you, ma'am, I am working hard."

Smith responded that Covenant Keepers teachers didn't get the same kinds of pay increases as Tatum and "it's not fair."

Tatum said her teachers are hardworking. "I'm in the classroom just like they are," Tatum said. "My day doesn't end when their day does. I have the baby Covenant Keepers that I have to keep alive.

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