Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Annysa Johnson
Hope Christian Schools, the largest operator of voucher schools in Milwaukee outside of the Catholic Church, will open its seventh school in the fall, in a building vacated this spring by a failed charter school.
School officials said Tuesday that it had begun enrolling students in its newest school — Hope Christian School: Fidelis — in the former North Point Lighthouse Charter School at 4200 W. Douglas Ave. on the city’s north side.
Zach Verriden, executive director of Hope Christian Schools in Wisconsin, said the plan is to enroll 150 students in 4-year-old kindergarten through fifth grade in the first year.
“And we’d like to grow that out to serve all the way to eighth grade,” he said.
Lighthouse, run by a Florida-based nonprofit, announced in February that it would close at the end of the school year. Opened in 2012, the school had struggled with academic performance, leadership, enrollment and other issues, and was on the verge of being closed by the City of Milwaukee’s chartering authority.
The fast-growing Hope franchise, operated by Waukesha-based Educational Enterprises, has fared better in Milwaukee’s highly competitive education market.
Opened in 2002 with 50 students, it now serves more than 1,900 students in five Milwaukee schools and one in Racine. All but a handful of its students this year attended on state-funded vouchers through the Milwaukee and Racine parental choice programs.
The nonprofit Educational Enterprises, founded by former Wisconsin Republican congressman Mark Neumann, also operates two schools in St. Louis, with a third set to open in the fall, and four in Phoenix.
Neumann’s son, Andrew, serves as president. The organization posted revenue of $13.2 million in the fiscal year ending in June 2015, according to its latest IRS filing. It posted expenses of $13.7 million, leaving a deficit of more than $500,000.
The schools bill themselves as building the “Three C’s” — Christ, college readiness and character. Their academic performance, however, is mixed, according to state assessment data.
The percentage of students who scored as proficient or advanced on the latest Badger exam ranged from zero to 38%, depending on the subject or grade.
Verriden said Hope eighth-graders outperformed their local public school peers in reading and math in the last WKCE exam and that that their pace of improvement exceeded those of students nationally and locally in what’s known as the MAP assessment.
For the last five years, all graduates have been accepted into at least some type of post-secondary program. Verriden said Tuesday that 80% of 2015 graduates were currently enrolled in college.