Mark Hyatt, president of The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs and a well-known figure in charter school circles, has been named executive director of the Colorado Charter School Institute.
The institute oversees 17 schools with a combined enrollment of 6,244 students. Hyatt succeeds Randy DeHoff, who resigned earlier this year, as executive director.
Alex Medler, president of the CSI board, said, “Mark has a demonstrated commitment to quality charter schools. We are very excited because Mark will be able to build partnerships while moving the Charter School Institute into a leading role in education reform during the next phase of its existence.”
Last spring, the Colorado Department of Education and Academy District 20, which charters the academy’s schools, investigated parent complaints about racism, sexual assault and student safety, lack of responsiveness and other issues.
A consultant’s report, issued in May, was critical of how the academy handled complaints about racism and religious intolerance and said the “investigation revealed major areas of concern about management, safety and security of students,” according to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette. (Full text of investigative report.)
District 20 officials required the academy to submit plans for staff training in reporting of abuse and handling complaints, conflict resolution, revising its board election system, having an audit performed, maintaining open records, ensuring sound financial practices and making reports to the district twice a year.
Classical Academy subsequently created a dean of students position to handle conflict resolution and related issues, improved staff training and created a conflict resolution committee.
Medler said that the situation “came up during the interview process [and] we investigated it some more.” Medler added that Hyatt “probably could have started out more aggressively in responding to it quicker” but did respond appropriately. Medler said that the institute board was satisfied by its conversations with Hyatt that he has the appropriate “philosophy and orientation … to serve all kids” as leader of CSI.
The Classical Academy, with 3,100 students at four campuses in Colorado Springs, is the largest K-12 charter in the state. It also offers a College Pathways program with Pikes Peak Community College and a program for home-schooled students. Hyatt has been president since 2002.
Hyatt is a retired colonel and fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He also served as vice commandant at the Air Force Academy and six years as the director of the academy’s Center for Character Development.
He serves on the governor’s P-20 Education Council and CDE’s School Leadership Academy Board.
In a prepared statement, Hyatt said, “All students in Colorado deserve a great education, and all parents deserve the opportunity to choose the school that’s right for their children.”
The institute board Tuesday also announced that Lee Barratt will be deputy executive director. Barratt has been chief financial officer.
The institute, created in 2004, opened for business in 2006 with two schools. An independent agency within CDE, it is allowed to authorize charters in districts that do not have exclusive chartering authority. It has a nine-member board, seven appointed by the governor and two by the commissioner.
In aggregate, CSAP achievement at institute schools ranged from 64 to 71 percent proficient or above in reading in 2009 (by grade) and from 26 to 59 percent in math. About 32 percent of students at institute schools are eligible for free or reduced lunch, compared to nearly 36 percent statewide (2008 figures).
A legal challenge to the constitutionality of the institute was rejected earlier this year by the Colorado Supreme Court when it declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling.
Efforts to broaden the institute’s powers went nowhere in the 2009 legislative session. But, Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, recently told EdNews that he’s considering 2010 legislation that would give the institute broader authorizing powers, perhaps by allowing school boards to delegate authorization functions to the agency. (King is administrator of Colorado Springs Early Colleges, a school authorized by the institute.)
The Classical Academy’s schools have received a number of awards and generally have high percentages of students scoring proficient or higher in reading and math and average rates of student growth. The schools use the Core Knowledge curriculum and are based on a philosophy grounded in “the seven liberal arts of classical education.” (For more information, see this page on the academy’s website.)
Classical Academy opened in 1997 with 400 students.
Here are snapshots of the Classical Academy schools, taken from CDE data.
- Elementary: 1,858 students (4.84 percent free and reduced), 87 percent proficient or above in math, 51st median percentile in math growth, 88 percent proficient or above in reading, 55th growth percentile. 2008 School Accountability Report
- Middle school: 429 students (6.53 percent free and reduced), 47 percent proficient or above in math, 51st growth percentile in math, 87 percent proficient or above in reading, 51st growth percentile. 2008 School Accountability Report
- High school: 597 students (5.7 percent free and reduced), 64 percent proficient or above in math, 64th growth percentile, 97 proficient or above in reading, 63rd growth percentile. 2008 School Accountability Report
In 2008, 9.45 percent of Academy 20 district students were eligible for free and reduced lunch.