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Meeting of the Board of Regents | December 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008 - 8:20am

sed seal                                                                                                 







Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Charter Schools: Proposed First Renewal Charter for Western New York Maritime Charter School



December 4, 2008


Goals 1 and 2






Issue for Decision


Should the Regents approve the staff’s recommendation concerning the proposed first renewal of the charter for the Western New York Maritime Charter School (Buffalo)? 


Reason(s) for Consideration


              Required by State statute, Education Law §2852.


Proposed Handling


This question will come before the EMSC Committee in December 2008 for action.  It will then come before the full Board for final action in December 2008.


Procedural History


              The New York Charter Schools Act of 1998 requires the Board of Regents (“Board”) to review applications for both new charter schools and the renewal of existing charter schools that are submitted to it in accordance with the standards set forth in subdivision two of New York State Education Law §2852.  After review, the Board may either (a) approve an application and issue a charter or a renewal charter for a term of up to five years, or (b) deny the application.

              In addition, New York Education Law §2852 (7) provides that revisions of charter school charters shall be made only upon approval of the charter entity and the Board of Regents in accordance with the provisions of the law applicable to the issuance of charters themselves.  With respect to charter schools directly chartered by the Board, it may either approve a proposed revision or deny it.


Background Information


We have received an application from the Board of Trustees of the Western New York Maritime Charter School (“the School”), a Board of Regents authorized charter school located in Buffalo, for a first renewal of its charter.   The Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Buffalo held a public hearing on this proposed first renewal on September 3, 2008.  No comments were made or received at this hearing. 


The Board of Regents granted the School its initial charter on January 12, 2004.  The School commenced instruction in September 2004 serving 150 students in grade 9.  It currently serves 325 students in grades 9-12.  The School was founded by several active and retired military personnel. The School’s institutional partner is the United States Navy, which assists with the implementation of the School’s Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program.   The School requests a first renewal for a term up through and including June 30, 2013.  Staff recommend that a first renewal be granted for a term up through and including June 30, 2012. 




VOTED:  That the Board of Regents approves the renewal application of the Western New York Maritime Charter School, that a first renewal charter be issued, and that its provisional charter be extended for a term up through and including June 30, 2012.


Reasons for Recommendations


              (1) The charter school meets the requirements set out in Article 56 of the Education Law, and all other applicable laws, rules and regulations; (2) the charter school has demonstrated the ability to operate in an educationally and fiscally sound manner; (3) approving the proposed renewal is likely to improve student learning and achievement and materially further the purposes set out in subdivision two of section twenty-eight hundred fifty of Article 56 of the Education Law; and (4) approving the proposed renewal would have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the charter school.


Timetable for Implementation


The Regents action for the Western New York Maritime Charter School will be effective on January 12, 2009.

New York State Education Department


Summary of Charter School Renewal Information


Summary of Applicant Information




Address: 266 Genesee Street, Buffalo, New York 14204


Board of Trustees President:  Angelo Conorozzo


Requested Renewal Period:  January 12, 2009 – June 30, 2013


District of Location: Buffalo City School District                           


Charter Entity:  Board of Regents


Institutional Partner(s): United States Navy


Management Partner(s):  None


Grades Served per Year:    9-12                                               


Projected Enrollment per Year:  325



Renewal Application Highlights


Evidence of Educational Soundness/ Attainment of Educational Objectives


  • Overall, the renewal application is well-written with much detail and explanation.  It is evident that the Western New York Maritime Charter School (“the School”) has learned from its experiences, has been proactive in addressing issues, and is able to collect and use appropriate data to make changes to the School’s programs and operation.
  • The School has faced and met many challenges during the first four years of its initial charter:  decreasing (but stabilized) student enrollment, administrative turnover, and a lack of student academic success.
  • During the summer of 2007, the School undertook an investigation into the root causes for the lack of student success, and identified six main issues.  The issues identified were:  a lack of a structured early intervention program for failing students; a lack of communication between home and school for academically at risk students; reading and math weaknesses among at risk students that was impacting their ability to succeed in other subjects;   curriculum issues; non-school related problems that had a negative impact on the academics and behavior of many students; and a lack of parent involvement.
  • The School also identified three other factors influencing student achievement: incoming grade 9 students’ lack of academic skills (most were scoring at Levels 1 and 2 on grade 8 State assessments); a relatively high percent (25 percent) of the enrolled students are students with disabilities; and 78 percent of the enrolled students were eligible for free or reduced lunch.
  • The School has developed and implemented a comprehensive school wide action plan to address the identified root causes.  Professional development initiatives were also tied to the action plan.   Specific plans and strategies were put into place to address each root cause beginning in the summer of 2007.  During the next charter term, the School will implement a three-year comprehensive school wide improvement plan that includes goals, objectives, and actions/strategies for each of the three years. The goals are organized into three themes:  Academic Success, Organizational Viability, and Unique Programs.  The plan provides a high level of specificity in its projected activities to address academic programs, support services, staff development, school safety, parental involvement, sound financial and operational management, technology, and student information management systems
  • The School continues to collect data on the effectiveness of the various aspects of the action plan, and makes necessary adjustments.
  • In 2006-07 (the most current year for which New York State Report Cards are available), the results show mixed achievement.  The data show that 70 percent of the students taking the Math A Exam passed (as compared with 44 percent in the District), 46 percent of the students taking the Physical Setting/Earth Science Exam passed (as compared with 37 percent in the District), and 75 percent of the students passed the Comprehensive Spanish Exam (as compared with 88 percent in the District).  In contrast, three percent of the students taking the Physical Setting/Chemistry Exam passed, as compared with 41 percent in the District.   See the table below.
  • The School has not yet met its stated goal that each year all students will score at or above 65 on all Regents Exams.  The School reports that, in 2007-08, 91 percent of the students scored at or above 65 on the US History and Government exam, and in January 2008, 92 percent of the students so scored on the Math A exam. 
  • Results indicate increasing passing rates and decreasing failure rates for classes in 2007-08, as compared with those from the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.  The improvement is attributed to various changes made to the School’s academic program in the fall of 2007.  These changes included curriculum modifications, adding academic intervention services, implementation of a software program to track student assessment data, and professional development focused on linking instruction to student performance.


  • In 2006-07, two percent of the students dropped out (as compared with 12 percent in the District), which is a decrease from the 2004-05 school year when six percent dropped out.
  • With one exception, the scores reported by the School for the June 2008 Regents Exams exceeded those from June 2007 by an average of over ten points.  One score was  30 percentage points higher than in the previous year.
  •  A comparison of the number of students recognized for academic performance during the first three quarters of 2006-07 and 2007-08 indicate an increase in the number of students so recognized, even considering that the benchmark for this recognition was raised from an 80 percent to an 85 percent grade average during this period.
  • During the first 30 weeks of the 2007-08 school year, students in the After School Academic Intervention Program were tracked regarding the number of classes failed.  The number of classes failed diminished by 17 percent, while the number of students failing one or more classes diminished by 18 percent.
  • The School did meet its graduation goal that 90 percent of students will graduate with a New York State Regents Diploma within four years of entering 9th grade.
  • An Impact of Anger Management /Leadership Training program conducted by the School’s Youth Counselor was offered to 13 students who had demonstrated disruptive anger-related behavior.  Sixty-eight percent of those students showed a decrease in disruptive behavior.
  •  Students demonstrate an increased level of respect for one another and adults, as well as for their school facility.  They take pride in their leadership roles and in their uniforms, which they wear in public.  The School participates in community events such as parades and tutoring of children at a nearby elementary charter school.  It has been nationally recognized by the United States Navy, and School administrators and twelve cadets visited Washington, D. C. in the fall of 2007 at the invitation of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Joseph R. Campa, Jr.
  • The School has had four Commandants (i.e., principals) in four years.  The current Commandant is a retired United States Marine Corps Officer, and Senior Naval Science Instructor at the School and is in his second year as Commandant.  He has instituted numerous changes that have resulted in an improved morale and a more consistent and focused educational program.  Changes include replacement of the alternative instruction program for suspended students, revamping of the attendance record keeping system, new strategies for recruitment and retention, and a stronger, more effectively enforced discipline policy.  
  •  Interviews with board members, staff, parents, and students indicate that the Commandant is highly regarded for his leadership abilities.
  • As a result of the School’s action plan and the current Commandant’s leadership, there have been increased passing rates for all courses, and an increased percent of students scoring at or above Level 3 on the English Essay Writing and the Social Studies Five Paragraph Essay Writing. Disruptive student behavior has also decreased significantly. 
  • There has been some turnover on the Board of Trustees (“BOT”), as a result of several members beings deployed to Iraq and others resigning from the BOT for other reasons.  The BOT has expanded to include members with needed areas of expertise.
  •  The BOT has developed a detailed and comprehensive rubric for its self-evaluation.
  • The BOT has been responsive to issues raised by parents, the Department, and its auditors.  Its governance and oversight of the School has improved steadily over its initial charter term.  It is now well able to assess and proactively address issues and challenges as they arise.
  • BOT members now receive training on an on-going basis to improve their capacity for effective oversight, and to address specific identified gaps or needs.
  • The BOT has established a close and appropriate working relationship with the Commandant and other key administrators.
  • The Board of Trustees agenda for each meeting includes a discussion of academic achievement.
  • Student performance is a component of teacher evaluations.
  • The School has made many necessary adjustments to its educational program and to its fiscal oversight procedures, and has developed (and begun to implement) a well-crafted school-wide improvement plan that is reasonably calculated to help students increase their levels of academic achievement.  Its student enrollment has stabilized, and it seems to have found its audience, i.e., students who are interested in a military experience as part of their secondary education.  The School’s leadership and governance have evolved in a positive manner, with a great deal of respect being accorded to the current Commandant, whose leadership and consistency of purpose have greatly helped the School to evolve in a positive manner.  The School’s academic results to date suggest a school that is still developing, and one that needs more time to fully realize its mission.  As a result, staff recommend that the School’s charter be renewed for a term up through and including June 30, 2012 (approximately three and a half years).
















Western New York Maritime Charter School

Percent Passing Regents Exams

Compared with the Buffalo City School District

2006- 2007

Regents Exam

Percent Scoring At or Above 65



Comprehensive English



Mathematics A



Global History & Geography



US History & Government



Living Environment



Physical Setting/Earth Science



Physical Setting/Chemistry



Comprehensive Spanish





Evidence of Fiscal Soundness/Projected Fiscal Impact

  1. The School has demonstrated a positive cash balance at the end of each school year. 
  2. The School has promptly and satisfactorily addressed any and all issues identified in its annual audits and by the Office of the State Comptroller.
  3. The School has implemented (and will continue to implement) strong fiscal monitoring procedures and internal controls.  This includes the development and implementation of policies regarding purchase approval, oversight of payments made in accordance with budget line items, and Board approval of purchases over $5000. 




Projected* Fiscal Impact of the

Western New York Maritime Charter School

2009-10 Through 2011-12*

School Year

Number of Students

Projected Impact

(Percent of Total District Budget)











*Assumes a 3.0 percent annual increase in the district’s budget and a 4.5 percent annual increase in the average expense per pupil.  Projections are subject to fluctuation in actual enrollments, FTE enrollments, AOE, and district budgets.  Further assumes all students will come from the district of location.


Fiscal Impact Of All Charter Schools In Buffalo

2009-10 Through 2011-12*





Aloma D. Johnson Fruit Belt Community Charter School




Buffalo Academy of Science CS




Buffalo United CS




CS for Applied Technologies**








Elmwood Village CS




Enterprise CS




King Center CS




Oracle CS




Pinnacle CS




South Buffalo CS




Tapestry CS




Maritime CS




Westminster Community CS




Total Projected Impact




*Assumes a 3.0 percent annual increase in the district’s budget and a 4.5 percent annual increase in the average expense per pupil.  Projections are subject to fluctuation in actual enrollments, FTE enrollments, AOE, and district budgets.  Further assumes all students will come from the district of location, and that all other charter schools will still be in operation from 2009-10 forward.

** Located within Kenmore-Tonawanda CSD but receives approximately 85 percent of its student enrollment from Buffalo.   Impact is therefore calculated upon 85 percent of its anticipated enrollment.



Evidence of Parent and Student Satisfaction and Community Support

  1. Student re-enrollment had not been high in prior years.  Many parents enrolled their children into the School, often seeing it as a school of last resort for their children, but the students were not necessarily as enthusiastic about the military aspect of the program as their parents were.  The School has always advertised itself as a college-preparatory school with a Navy Junior ROTC component, not an “alternative” or “boot camp” school, yet that seemed to be the expectation of many parents.  It has taken the School some time to find its audience, but it seems to have done so.  Only one student dropped out during the 2007-08 school year.
  2. A Parent Opinion survey was administered in Spring 2008.  The results show that 92 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement “Overall, my son/daughter is receiving a high quality education.”
  3. The results of a Student Opinion Survey administered in Spring 2008 show that the School has made gains with many of the reforms it has already implemented.  The results show that 99 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement, “Grades are important to me,” 89 percent agreed with the statement, “The Guidance Department and Youth Counselor are accessible and willing to listen to my concerns,” and 92 percent agreed with the statement, “There is at least one adult that I can turn to in this building.” 
  4. The School has not been able to meet its initial target enrollment of 600 students by 2008-09, mostly due to facility issues.  The School has allocated an increasing amount of classroom space to special education and other support programs.  Its student enrollment seems to have stabilized at or around 325 students in grades 9-12.