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Medford School Board denies Logos expansion

Logos Public Charter School’s request to increase its cap by 200 students was denied this week by the Medford School Board.

Only one board member, chairwoman Karen Starchvick, voted against the cap increase Tuesday night, while three voted for it. However, one board member was absent and two abstained from voting, so the initiative did not pass because the majority of the board (four) did not approve it, explained Starchvick.

Logos Executive Director Sheryl Zimmerer said she was frustrated at the outcome, considering that the school has a strong infrastructure and leadership, and has the highest graduation rate in the county.

"It's extremely unfortunate that one vote can turn away kids from our school,” Zimmerer said Wednesday.

Board member Michael Campbell said he abstained because his sister-in-law is a teacher at Logos, and board member Lilia Caballero abstained because her grandchildren attend the school.

"I knew that Michael planned to cite a conflict of interest, but I was pretty surprised by Director Caballero's abstention from the vote since I've known a lot of parents and grandparents that have served on school boards and voted on things,” Zimmerer said.

Logos serves homeschool students through online and on-campus classes and instructional support. The school's maximum enrollment under its 2016-21 charter is set at 1,000 students. Last year, its average enrollment was 857 students, and so far 1,000 students are registered for this fall, leaving 54 students on the school’s waiting list.

“And a lot of people don’t start thinking about school until the end of August, so that list will just grow,” Zimmerer said.

Zimmerer said past contracts set the cap for the first year of the contract and allowed the school to negotiate a new cap in subsequent years, and that the language in the current contract was an oversight.

“If you are concerned about the pace of growth from 1,000 to 1,200, we would agree to a 50-student increase each year over the course of the next four years to end this contract with 1,200,” Zimmerer suggested in a statement to the board.

Nonetheless, Starchvick said it seemed illogical to increase the cap until its new, larger facility in northwest Medford is completed next year.

“They ended the year in June at about 837 kids,” she said. “So just going to 1,000 would have been an 18 percent increase, and 1,200 would be an almost a 40 percent increase.”

Zimmerer said school officials are trying to get the initiative back on the agenda when the full board can be present.

“We've had families already call us after the vote, crying and desperate that one vote keeps them from enrolling,” Zimmerer said. “It's a blow to our feeling of support by our sponsoring school district."

— Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.