Thursday, April 29, 2010

House Ed Acts on 3 Charter School Bills

It was the afternoon to hear charter school bills in the House Education committee. The first bill heard is sponsored by Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll (D-Denver). The Speaker's bill, HB 1345-Emergency Powers, addressed the issue that came up with Brighton Collegiate HS last winter when the district took over the troubled charter school. When the charter school governing board went to district court, the judge stated it wasn't his court's jurisdiction, but didn't elaborate on which entity was the appropriate venue, either.

This emergency powers bill clarifies the process should an authorizer want to step in and address address that don't necessarily fall under the "health and safety issues" for closure commonly covered in charter contracts. The bill clarifies that a district court is the appropriate venue to determine if the district takeover is appropriate. HB 1345 was unanimously approved to go to the floor of the House for second reading.

The next bill, also by Speaker Carroll, was HB 1412-Charter School and Charter School Authorizer Standards Review Committee. The bill would establish a 13-member advisory committee that will make a recommendation to the State Board of Education for rules to detail standards for both of these groups. Rep. Merrifield's amendment to change the deadline for the committee was adopted. The bill was approved 11-1 and will be on the Special Orders calendar on the floor of the House tomorrow.

The final bill, by Rep. Middleton (D-Aurora), HB 1419 was postponed indefinitely at the request of the sponsor. The bill wasn't "ready for prime time," according to the sponsor and needed additional discussion.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vote Early--Vote Often--For DSST

The Denver School of Science & Technology (DSST) is competing with five other schools in the country for the right to have President Obama speak at their graduation ceremonies. You can vote for DSST by going here. One vote for each computer IP address.

You can also follow DSST on Facebook at: DSST Public Schools

Monday, April 26, 2010

More on Imagine Schools

The NY Times ran an lengthy and well-researched article on Imagine Schools. Imagine is the largest management company for charter schools in the nation with 71 schools operating. In Colorado, there are two charter schools--in Firestone and the eastern part of Colorado Springs.

Imagine is criticized for extracting so much money from the schools it operates that the school operates on an extremely lean budget. This results in fewer resources and smaller salaries. Imagine is applying for nonprofit status (since 2005), but it also operates a facilities financing company that is for profit.

Pieces of this information has been reported in the past. However, this is the first article that collectively outlines all of the issues that have surfaced.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Charter School Essay Contest Winners

Winners of the charter school student essay contest were announced yesterday by Chairman of the State Board of Education, Bob Schaffer. First, Mr. Schaffer talked about the importance of choice in education and recalled his days in the Colorado Senate when the 1993 Charter School bill was introduced. Later he supported charter school legislation as a member of Congress, representing the 4th Congressional District. Now Bob Schaffer is the project director at Liberty Common School as they expand through high school in the fall.

Essay contest winners included:

* Mackenzie Whitehead-Bust, 4th grade, Highline Academy in Denver. Mackenzie mother, Alyssa, was the founding principal at Highline. Mackenzie's parents and younger sisters were at the rally to cheer her on.

* Mara Strother, 6th grade, Woodrow Wilson Academy in Westminster. The top picture includes Mara, her teacher, her principal Tim Matlick and several classmates. I must admit that I'm a board member at Woodrow Wilson and we're all very, very proud of Mara for her great essay!

* Clarence Thompson, 10th grade, Ridge View Academy in Watkins. Ridge View Academy is a youth detention facility. In his essay, Clarence told about his troubled past and how his life changed once he got to Ridge View.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Charter School Day at the Capitol

Today a couple of hundred charter school students, parents, administrators, teachers and elected officials gathered on the west steps of the state Capitol to celebrate Colorado Charter Schools week. Colorado League of Charter Schools (CLCS) Senior Vice President, Nora Flood, opened the rally with some information about charter schools. There are more than 160 charter schools operating in Colorado serving more than 66,000 students. About a dozen schools were represented at today's rally.

CIVA Charter Schools, Colorado Springs, brought their jazz band and provided music for the rally. Another big musical hit was the Rocky Mountain Deaf School's drum line. The students did a series of rhythmic exercises that demonstrated a very unique way for deaf students to learn music.

Numeorus people addressed the crowd including a teacher from Bromley East Charter School, CIVA Principal Randy Zimmerman, DSST Exec. Director Bill Kurtz, and students.

State Board of Education Chair, Bob Schaffer, introduced the students who won the essay contest for Charter Schools Week. I'll post on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This is How it All Begins

This is how many charter schools get started: two Moms can't get their children into a charter school so they start their own beginning in the fall of 2012.

Two mothers from Loveland didn't get their children in to New Vision Charter School so they're proposing a new charter school open. Never underestimate the resourcefulness of mothers who want what's best for their child(ren)!

I've heard this same story more times than I can recall. Teri Oates called me back in 1999 because she couldn't get her children into Jefferson Academy. Woodrow Wilson Academy opened a year later. Deb Coufal moved to Elizabeth after having been at Jefferson Academy and since there wasn't a school, started Elbert County Charter School, which later changed its name to Legacy Academy. When the sibling pool filled the Peak to Peak Charter School kindergarten class, parents whose children didn't make a class list worked together to form Flagstaff Academy in Longmont. The stories are endless.

Predominantly in Colorado, charter schools are created by a grassroots group of parents, educators, and professionals who want greater educational opportunities for their own families. Contrary to the rest of the nation, our state has few charter schools operated by management companies. In other states, their charter school law encourages management company charter schools. Colorado's law has greater flexibility.