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Chipman charter proponents make pitch

Submitted by on 1, November 11, 2009 – 6:00 amNo Comment

71The School Board on Tuesday night heard the pitch for a new charter that would replace Chipman Middle School.

Proponents of the Academy of Alameda charter laid out a plan to create a school that would shuffle the instructional program, the school day and even the physical environment students would face each day in order to meet the needs of neighborhood students – and would do so in a way that shouldn’t impact the school district’s bottom line.

The proposal came out of a collaborative process between parents, teachers – and the school district – undertaken to address the school’s inability to meet federally mandated testing standards for each of the past four years. If the board opts not replace Chipman with the charter, the district would need to come up with a restructuring plan for the school.

About two dozen Chipman teachers, parents and students – many of whom were wearing newly printed Academy of Alameda T-shirts with the words “Do more. Be more.” on the back – came out to speak in favor of the plan and to highlight its components.

Parents praised the proposal and the commitment of the teachers who put it together. Sheila Hewitt, a Chipman teacher and charter proponent, said the proposal was based in part on the program offered at Gompers, a charter school in San Diego.

Paul Bentz, chief executive officer for the Alameda Community Learning Center charter, also came out to support the plan. He said that the district is on the right track as it talks about charters, magnet and immersion schools as part of its master plan process and that it should consider doubling the number of students who can take advantage of such options.

But one speaker asked how the charter’s proponents would reach out to everyone in the diverse neighborhoods surrounding Chipman. And another, local teacher Roxanne Clement, asked how the transition from public to charter school would happen and what the impact would be on teachers who don’t continue at the school if it becomes a charter.

School board members also asked how the charter’s proponents would reach out to the families in the school’s neighborhood, particularly non-English speakers – and how they would deal with Coast Guard and transitional families who move to the neighborhood after the school year starts.

Ed O’Neil, president of the proposed charter’s founding board, said its leaders would mount an intensive effort to reach out to neighborhood residents whose children could attend the school.

“We plan an intensive campaign, literally door by door and house by house, to make sure every family understands what needs to happen in order to enroll in the Academy,” O’Neil said.

Board members also asked for an update in advance of their December 15 vote on the charter to get a sense of whether there are issues that could impede its approval and also on the practical machinations of approving the charter and closing Chipman, which would be separate acts.

If they okay the charter, they will have to figure out what to do with some of the district programs currently available at the school – and where to put students that don’t apply to the school.

If the charter proposal meets all the mandates that are required of it, the school board would essentially be required to approve it, Board President Mike McMahon said.

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