For Immediate Release
Hatboro-Horsham School Board Spends $24,000.00 on Religion “Expert”
Horsham, Pennsylvania, May 11, 2016 – Documents recently obtained by Good Earth Charter School via an open records request, expose the staggering amount of money the Hatboro-Horsham School Board (“HHSB”) expended on religion studies “expert” Dr. Candy Gunther Brown. Despite her controversial positions on many public school related issues and her questionable credibility as an expert, the HHSB paid Dr. Brown $23,986.86 to compile her report on Waldorf Education and to speak at a hearing on Good Earth’s charter application.
Dr. Brown was retained by legal counsel for the HHSB and was compensated at a rate of $150.00 an hour for her report and $250.00 an hour for her appearance at a hearing (where she spent two hours simply reading her report aloud). Dr. Brown’s proposal, invoices, report, testimony, and resume all demonstrate her complete lack of understanding and experience with both private Waldorf education and public Waldorf-methods education. In addition, Good Earth Charter School was given no notice of Dr. Brown’s retention or the HHSB’s intention to have her speak at the application hearing.
In a previous case where retained as an expert, a Judge found Dr. Brown to have an “obvious bias”1 and her opinion (that yoga is a conspiracy to trick school children into being spiritual) did not weigh heavily on the court’s decision.2 In retaining Dr. Brown, the HHSB seemed not to recognize her continued bias.3 Additionally, as a federal district court has already held that Waldorf-methods charter schools are not religious in nature nor violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment4, it appears that the HHSB, who is struggling with a large budget deficit5, may have better spent its time and money doing some basic legal research and saving the $24,000.00 spent on Dr. Brown.
For copies of Dr. Brown’s proposal, invoices, or report please contact:
David M. Secouler, Esq., firstname.lastname@example.org (215) 550-1303
1 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/02/judge-yoga-promote-hinduism-californian-schools 2 http://fox5sandiego.com/2013/05/21/expert-witness-testifies-teaching-yoga-is-a-conspiracy/ 3 It should also be noted that yoga is offered to students in HHSD.
4 See PLANS, Inc. v. Sacramento City Unified School District, 752 F. Supp.2d 1136 (E.D. Cal. 2010); aff’d No. 10-17720 (9th Cir.) 2012.
5 “Even with a 2.4 percent tax increase and using more than $4 million from various reserve accounts, the Hatboro-Horsham School
District finds itself with a $404,478 deficit in its 2016-2017 budget.” http://www.theintell.com/news/local/hatboro-horsham—budget-still-out-of-balance/article_4759653a-0631-11e6-8dc8-eb91af886368.html
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 19, 2016
Hatboro Horsham School District Presented with Irrelevant Information Regarding Sectarian Nature of Proposed Charter School
Horsham, PA: A Second hearing for the Good Earth Charter School’s charter application was held Thursday evening, February 18, 2016, at Keith Valley Middle School. The purpose of this hearing was for the HHSD’s invited professionals to render their opinions on the Charter Application’s legality.
Dr. Candy Brown was hired by the HHSD to give an opinion as to whether the Good Earth Charter School would operate as a sectarian school. She offered a lengthy report in the affirmative, based almost exclusively on selected writings of Rudolph Steiner, the man who founded Waldorf education in the early 20th century.
“Dr. Brown opined that because Rudolph Steiner held certain religious beliefs, that a charter school seeking to employ some of Mr. Steiner’s educational methods must also be religious in nature,” said Logan Renard-Randazzo, one of the founders of Good Earth Charter School. “This is truly not the case. Had Dr. Brown observed the operations of any of the 60 Waldorf-inspired public schools across the nation, perhaps her opinion would be different.”
The Charter Application document submitted by Good Earth Charter School contains a fully-aligned, Pennsylvania Core standards-based curriculum, as well as the following comment regarding the non-sectarian nature of the proposed school:
GEC will offer aspects of standard Waldorf Education that have been adapted and
made suitable for a publicly funded charter school in Pennsylvania. As a non-sectarian
institution, the curriculum we will offer does not and will not teach or advocate any
particular religious creed or belief.
The Charter applicant was not permitted to cross-examine Dr. Brown as to the factual basis underlying her opinion. A vote on the application will be rendered by the HHSD Board on Monday, February 22, 2016.
The Waldorf education model has been adapted and legally employed by some 60 public charter schools throughout the country in a non-sectarian manner, including Pennsylvania’s own Circle of Seasons Charter School in Fogelsville, PA.
About Good Earth Charter School: The mission of Good Earth Charter School is to expand learning opportunities in the Hatboro Horsham School District by establishing a school whose unique educational approach – a holistic, arts-integrated public school that synthesizes the methods used in Waldorf education with other best practices – will offer value to many families who seek a different method of education than that which is currently offered.
The charter application can be found at http://www.hatboro-horsham.org/Page/12717
You can find out more about the Good Earth Charter School at www.goodearthcharter.org
Andrea McAfee, Director, Good Earth Charter School
Tel: (215) 612-2339
A second hearing on our application was held on Thursday night, February 18. At that hearing, the District presented testimony from members of the District’s “technical team” that was put together to review our application to operate a charter school.
The technical team testified regarding “concerns” the team had regarding minor facets of GECS’s proposed curriculum, and tangential aspects of our finance and facility plans.
In addition, one of the members of the review team was Dr. Candy Brown, who was presented by the District as an expert in the field of religion. Dr. Brown testified that in her opinion, Good Earth Charter School would “operate as a sectarian school,” based largely on carefully selected quotes from Rudolph Steiner and individuals on the fringe of private Waldorf education.
In addition to being tremendously hurt by the implications of Dr. Brown’s testimony and report, we vehemently disagree with Dr. Brown’s opinions as they are neither based in the facts underlying our application or in the law governing religion in public schools. Although a point-by-point refutation would not be achievable on such short notice, the team has generated a written response to some of the team’s findings. That response is attached here.
We ask all supporters to attend the Charter vote on Monday, February 22nd, at Keith Valley Middle School, 7:00pm. There will be an opportunity for public comment.
Date: February 19, 2016
To: Board of School Directors, Hatboro Horsham School District
From: Good Earth Charter School Applicant Team
RE: Response to Technical Team Analysis Presented February 18, 2016
Dear Members of the Board,
Thank you for the opportunity to listen to the findings of the technical team that evaluated the Good Earth Charter School application. Below is a response to some of the information presented by the technical team on February 18, 2016.
Our scope and sequence charts were a comprehensive overview of our expectations of student achievement. They also demonstrate that our curriculum does meet current PA Core Standards. We agree that assessment cannot be treated separately from the curriculum. We identified a variety of assessment tools that we would be utilizing with their implementation schedules throughout the year, from standardized testing to student portfolios. Our goal is a realistic expectation that at least 80% of students have mastery of concepts, understanding that teachers will conduct formative assessments, and the curriculum may be differentiated as needed.
While we will not be teaching trigonometry and calculus to our students, as we are a K-8 school, we certainly agree with the district that mathematical problem solving is essential (see GEC Application, Page 30). In fact, problem-solving skills are inherently woven into the curriculum that we present – one example being the building projects in Grade 3 (see GEC Briefing, Slide 12). If one is simply looking at problem solving as computation, we will utilize worksheets and manipulatives to exercise computational skills throughout all grades.
Earth and space science is present before Grade 4. While astronomy is specifically highlighted in Grade 6, students are learning many earth science concepts from Grade 1 onwards through natural observation and even farming – not only for
zoology, but understanding of botany (see GEC Application Science Curriculum Standards & Assessments).
Fiscal Operations & Facilities
A line of credit is necessary to establish operations until we are supported by District and Federal funds; GECS does not intend to rely on a line of credit to meet payroll obligations or other cash flow requirements once it is operating. Of course, during periods such as the current budget crisis, having additional financial resources such as a line of credit is a necessary safety net.
We have submitted a conservative budget with a contingency fund in place, and a line of credit gives us reasonable flexibility with our cash flow.
Similarly, we are willing to adjust our medical insurance expenses to ensure that our employees receive a comparable plan to individuals employed by the District.
In our site plan, a gymnasium will be built in Phase 3 of construction. However, a multi-purpose recreation room is present in our modular plan to support indoor play and will be utilized by GECS students and staff beginning on day one.
GECS is a non-sectarian school and does not promote any religious beliefs whatsoever.
Dr. Brown attempted to summarize anthroposophy and the personal belief system of Rudolph Steiner. Neither the practice of anthroposophy nor Mr. Steiner’s personal beliefs have any relevance to the PA Core standards-aligned curriculum GECS intends to offer, or any connection to the comprehensive learning experiences GECS has demonstrated it will deliver to its students.
There are nearly 60 public, non-sectarian, Waldorf-Methods charter schools currently operating across the United States, including right here in Fogelsville, Pennsylvania. Similar to our peers, we are a Waldorf-methods school that integrates classical curriculum with the arts and responsible stewardship of the earth. To our knowledge, Dr. Brown has not conducted any observations of any of
these publicly funded institutions—despite the open invitation to the Board and Administration at the first hearing made by Phil Arnold, Executive Director of the Circle of Seasons Charter School.
Were that observation conducted, Dr. Brown would have seen that Waldorf-methods education no more “gestures” towards a sectarian “reverence” of the Earth any more than the Hatboro Horsham School District does when it celebrates Earth Day each year. GECS will not be teaching eurythmy, which is thoroughly documented in our curriculum narrative and in our supporting budget.
GECS teachers will be focused on ensuring that students meet PA Core Standards and become self-directed, lifelong learners. We will not be reciting verses/prayers with references to God, except for the United States Pledge of Allegiance. We will not be performing religious festivals, but will hold a variety of multi-cultural events as a school community that celebrates diversity and global understanding.
We do have a robust professional development program that includes Waldorf skills-based training in subjects like woodworking, storytelling, form drawing, and puppetry. That program also explicitly provides that GECS teachers will receive training in standards-aligned curriculum from an already-chartered, Pennsylvania-based, Waldorf-methods public school.
Finally, we are tremendously disappointed that we must refute some of Dr. Brown’s more offensive findings in writing –gnomes and fairies are not “presumed to be real” at GECS; GECS will not seek to cultivate “clairvoyant” or other non-real abilities in its students; and while we hope that the personal religious beliefs of our founding coalition would be beyond the purview of these hearings, we can represent and warrant to the Board of Directors that Terri Hawkins does not practice anthroposophy, and she has never explicitly or implicitly been asked to adhere to its tenets during her years of training as a Waldorf teacher.
Thank you for allowing us to submit these additional comments for the record. We look forward to the District’s vote on Monday, February 22nd.
The Good Earth Charter School Applicant Team