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School board tables charter policy revision

Submitted by on 1, September 23, 2009 – 6:00 amNo Comment

11-150x150The School Board decided Tuesday night to hold off on a proposal to change a freshly approved policy on charter schools. District staff had said the changes are needed to establish firm process and accountability rules for new charter applicants in response to a spate of inquiries from people considering new charter schools on the Island.

The trustees asked for changes that would loosen proposed timelines for submitting charter renewals and parent signatures for charter applications. And one charter school director said he thought he and other charter directors should have the chance to help shape the new rules.

Paul Bentz, who runs the Alameda Community Learning Center and Nea Community Learning Center charter schools, asked the board to wait on approving the new rules. His comments sparked a somewhat testy exchange with Superintendent Kirsten Vital.

“One of your core values is transparency and trust. The first time I saw this was this morning. I would like to be involved in drafting the policy,” Bentz said.

“I think as a school district, we have worked very collaboratively with charters since my arrival. And we will continue to do that,” Vital said. Still, she apologized for not having the policy online or reaching out to charter advocates, including teachers and parents who are working on a charter plan for Chipman Middle School.

Sylvia Kahn, a Chipman teacher who has been working on a charter proposal for the school, said that while she would have liked to have known about the proposed policy sooner, she supports the district’s efforts to provide clear rules.

Teachers and parents at Chipman are working on a charter proposal because the school is required to make major changes due to its repeated failure to meet federal proficiency standards in English language arts and math for some groups. Turning the school into a charter is one option in a list that includes closing the school and firing its principal and all of its teachers.

The school board had approved new policies on August 25. But district officials said they are going through the policies, which were written by a statewide schools consultant as models for districts to use, to tweak them to better suit Alameda’s local needs.

The board will again consider the policy revision at its October 13 meeting.

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