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History of Liberty Common School (Part 3)

History of Liberty Common School (Part 3)
Dr. Maureen Schaffer, Founding Parent

It was June of 1996. Advocates for the Core Knowledge Charter School had come up short after being legally out-maneuvered by the Poudre School District. The parents faced a $5,000 debt for legal filings and newsletters to its growing list of supporters.

The unsinkable charter group wasted no time mobilizing its next charter effort. It “passed the hat” yet again, this time requesting additional donations to hire a lawyer of its own.

The parents contacted local attorney Mr. Mike Maxwell to assist in rewriting and negotiating their charter. Maxwell was immediately captivated by the critical nature of the school choice movement. He and his partners donated their time and expertise to the cause.

The name of the new school would be Liberty Common. Why? At a common school, students of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds could obtain a common education.  But, why Liberty? Liberty stood for parents who would now have educational choice. Liberty stood for teachers who would no longer have to work in a broken system. And most importantly, Liberty would symbolize the true freedom that can only be achieved when a student possesses an educated mind.

On October 1, 1996, the charter application for Liberty Common School was submitted to PSD, along with a file drawer of supporting documents, reports, and studies. The new charter provided in-depth rationale for each aspect of the school the parents deemed non-negotiable. Still, negotiations dragged on for months. Finally, PSD approved the charter, and a five-year contract was signed on February 24, 1997.  Now, the real work would begin.

The charter group scrambled to simultaneously find a building and hire staff. Teams of parents conducted interviews at the offices of Dr. Randy Everett’s urology practice. (Applicants were quite relieved to learn physical exams were not part of the drill).

Although there was still no school building, one courageous administrator, Dr. Kathryn Knox, took a gamble and signed on as Liberty’s first headmaster. She quickly melded with the team and donated dozens of hours interviewing potential teachers. 

A powerhouse staff with a pioneering spirit was assembled, including Dave Lunn, Cherie Pedersen, and Jeff Siener, who are all still cornerstones of Liberty today. The late Connie Behr, our former elementary-school librarian, was also actively involved. Teachers joined forces with parents to identify curriculum resources and skills programs to augment the Core Knowledge Sequence.

Meanwhile, parent Peter Kast, worked fervently to pull together a suitable building and financing for the new school.  Pursuing multiple deals simultaneously, Peter never gave up as each financing option ultimately collapsed.  Would anyone lend money to this unknown entity called a charter school?

It was now summer and fall was fast approaching. A building was needed immediately if there was to be sufficient time for renovations. Peter assembled a small group of investors to purchase the Colgate factory near the detention center and lease the building to the charter school. The deal closed in late June.

The facility question was answered, but substantial reconstruction was necessary to convert the former toothpaste and mouthwash factory into a school. Thirteen Liberty families put up personal assets as collateral for the million-dollar construction loan. It was now July.

Amazingly, due to the support of former PSD Board President David Neenan (deceased), his construction firm, the Neenan Company, completed the massive remodel in less than 60 days.

The concrete floors were bare and the upstairs remained unfinished. A support column stood in the middle of the small gym. The performance hall, wood gym, art rooms, and track were non-existent. But none of that mattered.

In September 1997, a dream became a reality as Liberty Common School opened its doors to more than four hundred eager young students in kindergarten through seventh grade. And the rest, as they say, is history.

  • History of Liberty Common School