Home » Island News, Schools

Nea charter hits language snag

Submitted by on 1, February 24, 2009 – 8:00 am9 Comments

Tonight, the school board will again discuss postponing approval of an agreement between Alameda Unified at the Nea Community Learning Center, a K-12 charter that is slated to open this fall. No date to sign the agreement has been set, according to one of the school’s founders, though she said she is confident the agreement will be signed.

“We’re having trouble with the language,” said Maafi Gueye, one of the school’s founders, who characterized the negotiations with the district as amicable. A key point to be worked out, Gueye said, is working out the details about how Nea will provide special education services.

Separately, Nea and the district are negotiating over a space for the charter. The district has three spaces it is not using for K-12 instruction and has submitted one to Nea for its consideration.

Meanwhile, Nea’s founders are taking applications for the school, which is slated to offer instruction in grade K-10 this fall. Gueye said that so far, she has received 425 applications for 308 slots, including more than 50 applications for 20 kindergarten slots and more than 80 applications for incoming sixth graders. Gueye said that the pool included 111 students who are home schooled or attending private schools, though that number is from earlier this month. The school has also received interest from out-of-district students.

Gueye said the application deadline is Friday. More information and applications are available on Nea’s website. Gueye said that after the applications are collected, the school will hold a lottery for the spots and create a waiting list for students who aren’t selected, opening applications again if there are slots available. (The school is modeled on the existing Alameda Community Learning Center charter high school.)

“We’ll unfortunately probably have to turn some kids away,” Gueye said.

We shot a quick e-mail to School Board President Mike McMahon last night for comment but couldn’t reach him by press time.

The school board voted against the Nea charter in January 2008, saying they feared the school population would not reflect the district’s racial diversity and that its plan relied too much on the district to supplement its offerings. The county Board of Education, which heard a subsequent appeal of that decision, “reluctantly” followed suit. Nea’s leaders updated their proposal and resubmitted it in the fall, and it was approved last November pending the signing of the agreement with the district. The agreement was originally slated to be signed on January 31.

Tonight’s agenda also includes a discussion of the school district’s finances in light of a just-passed federal stimulus package and just-signed state budget. On his website, McMahon says the stimulus package should net the district $2.7 million, largely for special education, construction and to aid low-income students. The board is also slated to hear from parents who want the district to deal with kindergarten overenrollment on the East End sooner, rather than later.


  • Mark Irons says:

    I've been hostile to this entire effort for reasons I won't repeat here, but now that it's a reality I'm inclined to be more circumspect and back off a bit. But I still have a thought or two. With the over enrollment situation at some AUSD schools and the tensions around that, I wonder how NEA intends to select students. A straight lottery? Or will there be any preference given to people in the district who can't afford private school over those currently enrolled in private schools? Other attempts aimed at balancing equity?

  • Andy Currid says:

    I'm 99% certain that state law mandates they use a lottery.

  • Lauren Do says:

    I believe Andy is right. I'm pretty sure in their Charter application they specifically indicated that it would be a lottery.

    On another note, the "negotiations" over the special education is interesting since that was one of the key issues that got their application kicked the first time around. It would be…interesting (there's that word again) to find out more about where is the disconnect.

  • Whitney says:

    Yep, Andy is correct. Under CA Ed. Code Section 47605(d)(2)(b) California charter schools that receive more applications than they have openings are required to hold a "public random drawing."

  • Lisa says:

    It was a straight lottery.

    I did want to respond to Mark's idea that the lottery could or should be tipped in favor of those who can't afford private school, as opposed to those who are already enrolled in private school. This sort of attempt at "balancing equity" is false. I have a child in private school, and we cannot possibly afford to pay for private school again next year–it was a huge sacrifice to make it happen this year. We were unlucky in the lottery at our neighborhood school, so we did our best for our child, but that does not mean that we are rich or that it was an easy choice. We have friends who borrowed money to pay tuition this year. Another family has a parent laid off and is struggling to finish out the year at the private school, given that their neighborhood public school does not have a place for their kid. Not every family with a child in private school is financially well-off or even financially secure.

    Conversely, I know families with kids in public school who are financially very secure. Having kids in private school is not a measure of wealth.

  • Sue says:

    Does anyone know has the agreement been signed between Alameda Unified and the Nea Community Learning Center? If not, has a date been set to sign the agreement? Has a location been decided on yet?


    • Hi Sue,

      Ratification of the agreement is on the school board's agenda for tonight. As for the space, negotiations are ongoing. The district has three spaces available: the old Island High site, the former Longfellow School and the old Woodstock School, which I think is now used as a child care center.

  • Ky says:

    Forgive me, but I am trying to understand the benefit of a charter school. My son will begin kindergarten in 2011 and we are considering NEA Charter or Paden Elementary. Can someone simply explain to me the benefit of a charter and also some concerns? I appreciate the help!

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.