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District 27J board moves ahead with negotiations for renewal of Eagle Ridge Academy's charter

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON – The School District 27J Board of Education gave a vote of confidence to Eagle Ridge Academy by approving the cademy's charter renewal application during its Jan. 28 board meeting.

By renewing the academy's charter, district and ERA officials will have 90 days to negotiate a new contract with the academy. Provided the parties reach an agreement on a new contract, state law dictates the new charter contract must be for at least four years.

District Attorney Janet Wyatt said last year the board was not comfortable in issuing ERA a renewal last year due to the “significant issues and concerns that had arisen” and issued a one-year contract extension instead. She said that contract extension included 19 conditions that academy officials needed to meet and that they have since met all of those conditions.

Directors Greg Piotraschke and Teresa Gallegos were pleased with the progress ERA has made in the last year. Piotraschke said its nice to see that Principal and Head of School Ben Ploeger has a board that's working with him and that they're work is headed in the right direction.

Gallegos also praised them on a job well done.

“You've had a lot of challenges before you and you didn't back down and it says a lot of your character. You've done a great job,” she said.

Superintendent Chris Fiedler concurred. He said it's been a long road but one of the positive outcomes of the experience is that district officials have been able to build stronger relationships with all of the district's charter school partners.

Ploeger, who attended the meeting with several board members and teachers, was “thrilled” with the board's decision.

“I was just telling the board the most exciting thing I get to do is go back tomorrow and craft a message to share with families and the students and the faculty that have worked so hard to grow Eagle Ridge and make it into what it is today,” he said.

According to Ploeger, the academy is paying the district back in monthly installments of $3,733 for money allocated for repaying a federal grant it lost amid a criminal investigation of former Head of School Bob Hughes. Ploeger said ERA has made six payments thus far. The payments are automatically deducted from the state and local funding they get through 27J.

On Jan. 9, Hughes was sentenced to 60 days of home detention and 10 years of probation in Adams County District Court for embezzlement of public property.

In a separate action item, the board ratified an amended promissory note between the district and ERA. The note accounts for a payment made by the district's insurance, which reduces the academy's total repayment from $224,000 to $166,986.