EMSC-VESID Committee



James A. Kadamus


Rebecca H. Cort 



Charter School Application: New York Center for Autism Charter School



April 13, 2005



Goals 1 and 2





Executive Summary


Issue for Decision


            Should the Regents approve the attached proposed charter submitted by the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education?


Reason(s) for Consideration


Under the New York Charter Schools Act of 1998 (Education Law §§2850-2857), the Board of Regents is authorized to make recommendations on proposed charters submitted by another charter entity.   Upon receipt of a proposed charter submitted by a charter entity, the Board of Regents shall either (a) approve and issue the charter as proposed by the charter entity or (b) return the proposed charter to the charter entity for reconsideration with the written comments and recommendations of the Board of Regents. If the Board of Regents fails to act on such proposed charter within 60 days of its submission to the Board of Regents, the proposed charter shall be deemed to have been approved and issued by the Board of Regents at the expiration of such period. 


Proposed Handling


            This question will come before the EMSC-VESID Committee on April 14, 2005 for discussion and action.  It will then come before the Full Board in the Committee's minutes for final action on April 15, 2005.


Procedural History


            This application was to come before the Regents last month and was withdrawn to enable the applicant to respond to State Education Department staff’s questions.


Background Information


Education Law §2854(2)(a) states that a charter school cannot discriminate against any student based upon, among other things, disability.  It further states that admission of students shall not be limited on the basis of, among other things, intellectual ability, disability, or measures of achievement.  Finally, §2854(2)(b) provides that any child who is qualified under law for admission to a public school is qualified for admission to a charter school.  Taken together, these provisions suggest that a charter school cannot limit admissions to any subset of students based upon a particular characteristic(s) or criteria (other than gender, for which the statute makes an express exception).  SED has acted consistent with this interpretation of “open admissions.”


            However, Education Law §2850(2)(b) also states that a central purpose of charter schools is to increase learning opportunities for students who are “at risk of academic failure.”


            In light of these possibly contradictory provisions, staff requested guidance from the Regents on whether the Regents would consider chartering schools whose purpose was to serve only a specific subset of students, but who were at risk of academic failure.  The Regents directed staff to review and submit such applications to the Regents for consideration.


            The New York Center for Autism Charter School is the first such application to be considered pursuant to that directive.  It would not follow an open admissions policy.  Rather, admission would be restricted to autistic students who meet specific criteria.


The following table summarizes the number of new charters that may still be issued by charter entities in New York:


SUNY Board of Trustees

All Other Charter Entities






VOTED:  That the Board of Regents approve the proposed charter.


Timetable for Implementation


Charters that the Regents approve are effective on the date of the Regents action. 





New York State Education Department


Summary of Proposed Charter


Summary of Applicant Information



Name of Proposed Charter School: New York Center for Autism Charter School (NYCACS)


Address:  To be determined


Applicant(s):  Ophelia Rudin, Ilene Lainer, Wayne R. Mucci, Robert J. Dryfoos, Randy I. Horowitz, Stephen F. Kahn, Laura Slatkin


Anticipated Opening Date: September 6, 2005


District of Location: To be determined


Institutional Partner(s): The New York Center for Autism (NYCA)


Management Partner(s): None


Grades Served: Un-graded; serving students aged 5-9


Projected Enrollment:  12(28)



Proposed Charter Highlights




Ophelia P. Rudin, the lead applicant, is the Founder and President of OPR Enterprises, Inc.  She currently serves on the Board of the New York Children’s Foundation, a not-for-profit organization created by children for the benefit of the children affected by the tragedy of September 11th, and the Wellmet Group, an organization committed to the expansion of women’s roles in philanthropy.  Mrs. Rudin is also a Board Member of the Rachel and Lewis Rudin Foundation, which was established by the Rudin family to support the philanthropic efforts of organizations based in New York City.  She has a B.S. from the Tisch School of Business and Public Administration and a M.B.A. from Columbia University Graduate School.


Ilene Lainer, Esq. has been associated since 1983 with Grotta, Glassman, and Hoffman, a law firm representing large multinational companies, small family-owned businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and government agencies in the field of labor and employment relations.


Wayne R. Mucci is the Executive Director of the Sheltering Arms Children Serivice.


Robert J. Dryfoos is the founder of The Dryfoos Group, a governmental relations, marketing and lobbying firm representing educational, economic development and community interests before the New York State and City governments and was elected to the New York City Council in 1980, where he served for 11 years.


Randy I. Horowitz is the Associate Executive Director of the Educational Services at The Eden II Programs, Staten Island, New York. 


Stephen F. Kahn is the Director of Professional Development and Technology at the Center for Educational Innovation at the Public Education Association. 


Laura Slatkin is the co-founder and President of Slatkin & Co., a manufacturer of candles, fragrances, and body therapy products.  She also fundraises and supports many New York charities and serves on the Board of Directors of the Henry Street Settlement.


Institutional Partner(s)


The New York Center for Autism (NYCA) is a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization located in New York City.  It was founded in 2003 by a group of community members dedicated to increasing the availability and quality of intensive, science-based educational programs for children with autism living in New York City.  The founders seek to create a center in Manhattan that will support and facilitate research related to autism and related topics and will marshal the expertise of experienced scientists, clinicians, and educators to address the needs of the wider tri-state area population affected by autism.  For the school, NYCA will provide educational opportunities; provide financial and business acumen; fundraise and develop strategic partnerships.


NYCA contributions are included in the proposed charter school’s budget.


Management Partner(s)






·        The educational program and structure of the school is modeled after the Alpine Learning Group School in New Jersey.  Alpine has provided education to children with autism for 15 years.

·        The proposed charter school will use Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). 

·        The ABA methodology of teaching will include the selection, assessment, and strategies for changing behavior of social relevance (e.g., academic skills, self-care, vocational and socialization). 

·        Each component of the curricula will outline a specific set of behavioral teaching strategies to teach the specific objective.

·        The various strategies employed by ABA include instructional control, positive reinforcement, incidental teaching, video modeling, and shaping.

·        Class size/cohorts will consist of 4 students with compatible needs.


·        All students will be assigned to a 1:4:3 classroom (1 certified special education teacher; 4 students; 3 instructors).

·        The non-learning standards curriculum to be offered at NYCACS in the first year of its operation is designed to serve the families of NYCACS students.  Families will receive visits from a designated family consultant.

·        New York State curriculum areas (ELA, Math, Science, Technology, Health, Physical Education, Social Studies, Arts, Career Development and Occupational Studies) are reflected in the Individualized Goal Selection (I.G.S.) curriculum submitted. 

·        Students will receive intensive, individualized instruction. 

·        The school’s educational philosophy is grounded in the scientific study of the best practices for children with autism, and is consistent with the National Research Council’s suggestions for the education of children on the autistic spectrum. 

·        The school will offer a program of academic and support services based on applied behavior analysis (ABA) and provide the parents and families of its students with effective outreach, training and assistance.

·        The school year will be extended.




·        NYCACS will be managed by a two-person management team comprised of a Director of Education, who will oversee the development and implementation of academic programs and assessments, and an Executive Director, who will oversee administrative, business, and legal/regulatory compliance functions.  Each Director will report directly to the Board of Trustees.

·        The number of Trustees of the Corporation shall be not less than five nor more than fifteen. 

·        One seat on the NYCACS Board is reserved for a parent of a registered NYCACS student.

·        The Board will receive regular reports from each of its committees, comprised of Trustees, staff members, and others.  These committees will include at least the following: Executive Committee, Finance Committee, Education/Accountability Committee, Supervision and Evaluation Committee, and other ad hoc committees.  




·        The school will serve students with autistic-spectrum disorders, including autism, requiring a specialized educational environment.  The student’s school environment is determined by his/her home school district Committee on Special Education (CSE) and is described in each student’s IEP.

·        NYCACS will give preference in admission to students with autism or other pervasive developmental disorders requiring a specialized educational environment consisting of four students, one certified special education teacher and three instructors.  For purposes of the admissions lottery, students in the school will be assigned to one of three cohorts by the CSE with the advice of the Admissions Review Committee, which will consist of three specialists all with demonstrated professional experience in autism.  If there are more students who apply who meet the criteria for a cohort than there are seats available, these students will be placed on the waiting list for that cohort.  In the first year of operation, students ages 5-9 will be admitted; in the second year, students aged 5-7, and in the third and subsequent years, students aged 5-6.  Students older than these ages will not be admitted to the school.

·        In the first year the school will serve 12 students in three cohorts and in the fifth year 28 students.




·        The start-up budget for the school projects revenues of $135,000 and expenditures of $135,000, for a projected surplus of $0.

·        Expected revenue sources are private contributions (NYCA), interest income, and the New York Center for Charter School Excellence.  The NYCA will transfer $300,000 to the school immediately upon issuance of the charter.  Over $650,000 has been pledged in contributions for the school’s first year of operation and pledges or guarantees of over $200,000 per year have been identified for years 2-5 of operation.

·        The first-year budget for the school projects revenues of $1,304,866.16 and expenditures of $1,304,866.16, for a projected surplus of $0.

·          The location of NYCACS has not been identified but assurances have been provided that the program will be housed in a public school facility serving elementary-age non-disabled peers.




·        During the first year, the following full-time employees will be hired: three certified special education teachers; nine instructors.

·        The following contractual staff will be hired to support the school’s program during the first school year: ABA Educational Consultant will be contracted; the Special Education Compliance Specialist will be hired as a contractual employee; Speech and Language Therapist(s) and Occupational Therapist(s) will be contracted as needed.

·        The school will also hire an administrative assistant, health services professional, and security personnel.


Fiscal Impact


·        When fully enrolled with 28 students, the charter school will receive no more than $62,000 per pupil of the District’s budget (see fiscal impact chart).

·        Programmatic and fiscal audits will comply with all requirements made of public schools.  The school will employ a New York State licensed public accountant or certified public accountant to perform the fiscal audit.  In addition, the school will ensure that the audit is conducted in accordance with GAAP issued by the U.S. Comptroller General.

Potential Fiscal Impact of

New York Center for Autism Charter School

(New York City)

School Year

Number of Students

Projected Payment

Projected Impact*



 $           744,000




 $        1,240,000




 $        1,736,000




 $        1,736,000




 $        1,736,000


*Based on an agreement in the charter, the NYCDOE will provide $62,000 per pupil in funding. 


Community Support


·        30 signatures from parents were collected on the Parent Petition of Support.

·        The following people have written letters of support:

·        Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D., Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center.

·        Michael Brogioli, Executive Director of the Autism Coalition for Research and Education.

·        Eric Hollander, M.D., Executive Director of the Seaver and N.Y. Autism Center for Excellence at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

·        Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., Director of the NYU Child Study Center.

·        Glenn R. Tringali, Chief Executive Office of the National Alliance for Autism Research.

·        Fred R. Volkmar, M.D., Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology.

·        William Rudin, Chairman of the Association for a Better New York.

·        Eunice Kennedy Shriver.




Approve the proposed charter.


Reason for Recommendation


1.      The Charter School Law generally makes all students residing in the State eligible to apply to attend a charter school and requires that, when applicants exceed available seats, students be accepted through a random selection process.  However, formation of a charter school to serve at-risk students is permitted and the Regents have indicated previously their willingness to consider applications with limited admissions criteria.  Although the at-risk population defined in this application is limited only to moderately to severely disabled students with autism who have intensive service needs, this is a growing population both nationally and in New York.  The program application describes an intensive, research-based intervention model that should benefit both those students enrolled in the program and, eventually, have a broader impact on other public programs serving students with autism.

2.      The charter school law requires that justification be provided when a school will serve fewer than 50 students.  The applicant has provided evidence that the nature and intensity of the services to be provided require a maximum capacity significantly smaller than that generally projected by charter school applications.