By January 27, 2015

TeamCFA to Ridgeline: We’re Out.

The umbrella organization washes its hands of the charter school after repeated clashes.

By Karen Goveia

Following a failed attempt to remove Ridgeline Academy’s director Keven Barker at an ad hoc meeting over winter break, TeamCFA, the school’s umbrella organization, decided to jettison the charter school it helped establish in 2012. The school plans to continue operating.

TeamCFA’s announcement came as a surprise in the form of a letter posted on Ridgeline Academy’s website Jan. 14, notifying the school, staff and community of its intent to dissolve its affiliation with Ridgeline.

“It has become evident that the community and parents are happy with the school that they currently have at Ridgeline Academy and the continued support of TeamCFA is no longer desired by the school community,” stated Cheryl Reinstadler, TeamCFA’s director of operations.

TeamCFA has a history of usurping local control of its board of directors, exercising its corporate member authority to remove a previous school director and two board members.

“We embody what TeamCFA set out to do in the beginning, but things had started to turn in the last couple of months,” said Barker, who told In&Out he’s a big proponent of local control.

Hundreds of parents rallied in support of retaining Barker at the Dec. 30 meeting [See “Parents Rally to Keep Ridgeline Principal”, In&Out, Jan. 15, 2014], influencing TeamCFA not to oust Barker. The vote to dissolve the affiliation with the school came a week later.

Parent and former board president Kristine Burnett told In&Out, “I can say with certainty that the separation is in the best interest of the school. It means control of our future will be local. We have a clear vision where we want Ridgeline to go… and, unfortunately, it does not align with the vision of TeamCFA. The actions and decisions made by TeamCFA over the last year illustrate that local input and involvement are not welcome.”


A Bright Future
At a town hall meeting Jan. 20, Barker, along with local board members John Pirrone and Brandon Yancey, spoke to parents about the split and the future of school which, as of July 1, will operate as a self-governed charter school with its own local board of directors.

“This doesn’t mean anything for teachers, for students and staff… It’s business as usual. Everything as far as school operations are the same,” Barker said.

The biggest issue to iron out, Barker said, is renegotiating the lease or buyout of the school building owned by Challenge Foundation Properties. The topic of buying the building had already been broached by Ridgeline’s board in recent months during consideration of developing a high school for its 600-plus K-8 student population.

Ridgeline will hold the charter and, at the very least, Ridgeline Academy will drop the phrase “A Challenge Foundation Academy.” A new logo will be developed.

Ridgeline plans to continue to offer a Core Knowledge curriculum moving forward, and Barker said the school owns the curriculum, computers and most of its materials.

This isn’t the first parting of ways between TeamCFA and a school. A year ago, Challenge Foundation Academy, an A-rated charter school in Indianapolis, separated from CFA after its board of directors cited “differences in approaches to the replication of the school.”

A February meeting of the board will address next steps and loose ends, including procedures for seating a new board and timing the withdrawal of TeamCFA representatives Ruppert Reinstadler and Marv Allison from Ridgeline’s Board of Directors.


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