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AUSD to go charter?

Submitted by on 1, June 3, 2009 – 6:00 am3 Comments

In a word? No.

But district officials are considering making some of Alameda Unified’s schools charters as part of their effort to create an overarching vision for the future of public education on the Island.

About 150 people packed Edison School’s multipurpose room Tuesday night to get a fix on what was being considered and how it would work.

Superintendent Kirsten Vital said that while both charter and regular public schools are capable of providing innovative schooling, charters have much more flexibility in how their money is spent.

That said, the district would need to take a number of steps, including getting the okay of more than half its teachers and setting up an agreement with a neighboring district to take students and teachers who aren’t on board with the change to charters, in order to convert all its schools to charter schools.

If Alameda Unified were to take that unprecedented step – California has eight all-charter districts, and none of them has more than two schools – it would lose millions of dollars in state funding. But if the district were to make all its middle and high schools charter schools, it could take in more money per student than it currently gets.

The district is currently considering making Chipman Middle School a charter because the school has repeatedly failed to make federally required improvements in its test scores.

On the plus side, charters allow teachers and families to respond more quickly to individual student needs. And the district could create high-demand programs that it could put in under-enrolled schools, which could help balance out school enrollment on the Island.

But making some of the district’s charter schools could negatively impact others, without any guarantee that the charter school is any better than a regular public school.

Parents, teachers and school administrators who attended Tuesday’s workshop asked for more information on how the schools would be funded and staffed, and they wanted to know why the district couldn’t produce some of the same innovations in its existing public schools.

Some parents wanted assurances that their children would still be able to get into their neighborhood schools.

Other meeting attendees included Nick Driver of the California Charter Schools Association and Deborah Domitrovich, an official with the California Department of Education’s charter schools division.

The workshop was the second of three district officials are hosting to discuss a master plan for the district; the third workshop, on “Delivering Quality Education,” will be held August 18 at Wood Middle School.

The school board will discuss its options in further detail in the fall, and they’re hoping to have a plan in place by December.

School board President Mike McMahon just sent the link for the presentation. Thanks!


  • Barbara M says:

    I have to say the sentence about Chipman is a bit out of context. Chipman failed to reach its numbers with a significant subgroup. It has to do with NCLB and is rather wordy to go into this box but Chipman is basically failing the same subgroup all schools are failing it just has enough of them it has to report it. The teachers at Chipman are excellent and kids are offered a wonderful education there.

  • Julie says:


    Your article says that charter’s allow “teachers and families to respond more quickly to individual student needs.” I’m wondering in what this statement is based on? How do charters respond to individual student needs better/quicker than public schools?

    • Hi Julie,

      To clarify, this is what was given to us in the presentation as one of the “pros” for charters (and not any opinion on my part). And I think their reasoning, if I understood it correctly, was that this is possible because charters have much more flexibility in spending their money than the public schools do, so if an individual student has a specific need the school can choose to spend money to address that need. The spending of public school dollars, from my understanding, is much more specifically proscribed.

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