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Chartering a course

Submitted by on 1, October 15, 2009 – 6:00 amNo Comment
Photo from Alameda Unified School District website.

Photo from Alameda Unified School District website.

The School Board okayed a new policy on charter school applications over the objections of leaders from two of the Island’s existing charters who said they wanted to have the chance to provide input on the new policy.

The board voted 4-1 for the new policy, which lays out a preferred submission date and time lines for submitting charter applications and establishes guidelines for how the school district will evaluate the petitions and how the board will monitor the schools’ success.

School Board Trustee Trish Spencer cast the lone “no” vote on the policy.

Paul Bentz, chief executive officer of Community Learning Centers Inc., the umbrella for two of the Island’s two existing charter schools, asked the board to wait on approving the policy. He said he wanted the chance to sit down with school officials to provide input on what would work for existing and proposed charters.

Superintendent Kirsten Vital said she said the policy was needed more imminently, to provide clarity for the three or four charter applications she expects the district to get this year. She said the district may want to sit down with charter schools to iron out a broader set of administrative regulations to come.

The district’s newest charter, the Nea Community Learning Center, opened in the fall. And Chipman Middle School may convert to a charter school because that is one of the options it has for dealing with its continued inability to meet all its testing proficiency requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Earlier in the meeting, Bentz announced that he had submitted a renewal petition for the Alameda Community Learning Center charter that would effectively separate it from the school district. The school, which serves 200 kids in grades 6-12, was formed by the district and the consulting firm Arthur Andersen in the 1990s.

Schools with “dependent” charters like ACLC’s typically get their funding and special education services from the school district, and their teachers are part of the union that serves in the district. If approved, the renewal petition would make ACLC an “independent” charter, so its funding would come directly from the state and it would be responsible for drawing up its own contract to provide special education services.

The school’s current charter expires in December 2010. If approved, the renewal would be good for five years.

Bentz said he would be submitting facilities requests for both Alameda Community Learning Center and Nea Community Learning Center in the coming weeks. ACLC is housed on the Encinal High School campus, while Nea is in the Longfellow Education Center.

He said he hopes to expand ACLC to 300 students in 2010 in order to accommodate his wait list, and then to 350 the following year. Nea, which has 290 students now, would add a 10th grade class as planned and would grow to over 400 students by 2011.

“We would love to work collaboratively with the schools on facilities and our charter renewal,” Bentz said.

Bentz did not return a call seeking additional information.

In other school board news, the board got a snapshot of the district’s population 20 days into the school year. Student Services Officer Jeff Knoth said the district had 130 more students than expected. The district now has 9,455 students.

Knoth said the biggest overage is in the district’s elementary schools, which have 118 more kids than expected. He said the district added classes at Franklin (kindergarten), Lum (1st grade) and Haight (4th grade) in order to accommodate the additional students.

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