Our Journey to Approval

In the fall of 1999, a group of people met at the conference sponsored by the Pittsburgh Regional Group of the Pennsylvanian Branch–International Association Dyslexia Association. We had all been touched by dyslexia in our families. We had all watched our children struggle with learning to read. We knew the type of instructional, emotional support and grit that kids need to overcome dyslexia.

As we said that day … “although our kids are fine – many in college and beyond – we know we are blessed. We found the resources our kids needed in private schools with private tutors. Not all children in Pittsburgh are blessed with finding these resources – but they should be.” As we said that day … “this should not be so difficult…it should not be so expensive.”

Overcoming dyslexia takes grit and tenacity. Opening this school took grit and tenacity.

Following are the highlights of our journey:

  • Mid 2010 to fall 2011: This 18-month period could be referred to as the Preliminary Planning Phase. Curtis Kossman, currently President of the Board for the School, brought together an advisory working group, legal team and a curriculum team to draft bylaws, admission policies and design the curriculum. The people involved were experts in dyslexia and charter schools. People from his firm did conceptual design of the physical plant and high-level budgets.  Curtis began to recruit board members. Benchmarking visits began with other schools specializing in children with dyslexia and those visits continued throughout the coming years of the approval process. In total, 14 schools have been benchmarked. That fall, an agreement was signed for a piece of property in the North Hills School District.
  • November 2011: The Provident Charter School (PCS) Board applied for a charter in the North Hills School District. The North Hills Board turned down the application saying PCS was in violation of the ADA requiring a least restrictive environment. The Board’s position was that because parents choose to send their children to the school and once children are in the school there are no restrictions, the school will be operating within the intent and letter of the law.
  • Early 2012: The Board and volunteers gathered signatures to appeal to the state and were just about to submit the appeal when PCS lost the property in the North Hills.
  • Mid-2012 to mid-2013: The PCS Board looked at property in four school districts. Board members conducted multiple analyses of the finances with regard to the various options.
  • Mid-2013: The PCS Board submitted a bid for the Schenley High School to the Pittsburgh Public Schools with a design that would use the facility for PCS and also for student housing for local Universities.  Four entities bid on the property.  PCS came in second and did not get the property.
  • Fall 2013: PCS entered an agreement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to buy the North Catholic High School in Troy Hill.
  • November 2013: PCS submitted its application to the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
  • December 2013: The Provident Charter School board met with the Review Team from the Pittsburgh Public Schools for about two hours.
  • January 3, 2014: PCS board members and volunteers went to the Pittsburgh Public Schools Education Committee Public Meeting for the review team’s presentation on why they were not recommending the PCS charter.  The amount of inaccurate information that was presented by the review team to the board was incredible. Examples of inaccuracy were: the statement that the chair of the Provident Board was not a Pittsburgh resident – he lives in Shadyside. And, although they never went to the website to review the 2,600 curriculum maps, the review team said the maps did not exist.
  • February 26, 2014: As expected, The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors denied the charter.
  • March 14, 2014: Provident Charter School resubmitted its application to the Pittsburgh Public School. The major change was to open admissions to any student who applied and to use a lottery. The curriculum remains focused on teaching children with dyslexia to read.
  • April 23, 2014: PCS board members and volunteers went to the second Pittsburgh Public Schools Education Committee Public Meeting to listen to the review team presentation on why they were not recommending the charter.  Inaccurate information presented by the review team to the board included statements about the curriculum, which still had not been reviewed. That evening, the PCS Board members were informed they could provide testimony at a public meeting which would be held three work days from this meeting.
  • April 28, 2014: A public meeting was held and seven people testified for the Provident Charter Schools including experts in curriculum and dyslexia, board members, a legal professional and parents of children with dyslexia. The focus of the testimony was to correct the inaccuracies in the Education Committee report. Testimony was limited to three minutes; it was a challenge to correct all the inaccuracies in the short time period.
  • April 30, 2014: As expected, The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board denied the charter. The letter we received from the board indicated that community support was insufficient. This was confusing because at the Education Committee meeting on April 23, the presenter indicated community support was sufficient. This was one more error to correct and the PCS Board planned to do that on appeal.
  • May 1, 2014: The Provident Charter School began collecting signatures in support of the appeal process. 1,000 signatures were required – 2,400 signatures were collected.
  • July 11, 2014: Provident Charter School submitted a Petition to Appeal Order in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. The Pittsburgh Public School District had until August 9th to file their response to the petition.
  • August 11, 2014: Provident Charter School received a challenge to the signatures from the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
  • August 18, 2014: Pittsburgh Public Schools agreed that PCS has submitted over 1,000 names, thus satisfying the signature requirement.
  • August 22, 2014: Court of Common Pleas entered an order certifying that The Provident Charter School can proceed with its appeal to the State.
  • September 9, 2014: The Provident Charter School filed its appeal with the State.
  • November 10, 2014: The Provident Charter School forwarded its Brief in Support of Petition for Appeal to the Charter Appeal Board of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Target Date for hearing is early December.
  • December 9, 2014: Hearing date with the Charter Appeal Board. Board members Curtis Kossman and Jennifer Fichtner attended.
  • March 17, 2015: Appeal was granted.
  • March 24, 2015: Opinion from the Charter Appeal Board is received in the mail.
  • April 17, 2015: Petition-for-Review was submitted by the Pittsburgh Public School System with the Commonwealth Court of PA.
  • May 14, 2015: 501(c)3 granted by the IRS.
  • May 18, 2015: Signed Charter arrived designating permission to operate the charter school for five years. July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2020.
  • June 30, 2015: School District Commonwealth Court Brief arrived.
  • August 1, 2015: Provident submits its legal brief and a request to the Court for expedited consideration.
  • August 24, 2015: The Commonwealth Court grants expedited review. The case will be decided solely on the record, the CAB (Charter Appeals Board) decision and our written briefs. There will be no oral argument and the case will be expedited for decision.
  • November 21, 2015: Provident received notice that the Court had issued an order that the entire Commonwealth Court (or at least seven members out of nine judges will be deciding this case as opposed to just a three judge panel. The term used for this is The en banc Court is next sitting from December 7-10 in Harrisburg.
  • December 9, 2015: The case is considered. This means the judges would be together at that time and will likely discuss the case in a private session. A decision is to be announced at a future date.
  • February 26, 2016: The PCS board received notification from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania that they upheld the decision of the Charter Appeal boards by a vote of 6 – 1.
  • Current Status: A thriving learning community thanks to wonderful students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, supporters and partners.