Saving our Schools?

With the California public school system in turmoil, parents and teachers are turning to charter schools to try to improve education for their kids. It’s a contentious battle—and it’s coming to a neighborhood near you.



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“Approval is the default position, unless you can give specifics about why the charter will not succeed,” explains Cynthia Ruehlig, president of the Contra Costa County Board of Education.

Now, Middendorf and the charter proponents have a lot of work to do before the conversion this fall. A nationwide search for an executive director to guide the school has already begun. A website (claytonvalley.org) to keep the community informed every step of the way is rolling. And charter organizers are forming committees with parents, staff, students, and other community members to advise the school’s board on everything from curriculum to operations, school calendars to staff evaluation procedures. (Clayton Valley Charter will keep its teachers union in place, but the new on-site administration will have more leeway to manage and mentor teachers.)

Ask her how she’ll know if the charter is successful, and Middendorf replies in a voice that seems to shed the strain of months of battle, leaving behind a sense of hope.

“It really comes down to one thing: It’s the pulse of the campus,” she says. “I think what you’re going to see are students who feel someone is paying attention to them, and staff who feel they’re part of the big picture, part of the community. A positive culture breeds a pulse in the school that is going to vibrate in the hallways.

“People keep saying it’s pie in the sky. But I firmly believe it can happen. I wouldn’t have gotten involved in this if I didn’t think so.”


 

Stats

Charter Roundup

The charter school movement continues to expand. According to the California Charter School Association, there are now nine charters in Contra Costa County and more than 40 in Alameda County. We collected a sampling of the schools already opened and the ones to come.


 

Eagle Peak Montessori

Walnut Creek

Students: 185 in grades 1–5.
Charter: Elementary school in a Montessori environment.
Scores: 2010 base API of 891.
eaglepeakmontessori.org.


Livermore Valley Charter School

Livermore

Students: 932 in grades K–8.
Charter: Traditional learning environment.
Scores: 2010 base API of 900.
lvcs.org.


Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory

Livermore

Students: 70 in grades 9–12.
Charter: Traditional learning environment.
Scores: Unavailable, as school recently opened.
lvcp.org.


Oakland School for the Arts

Oakland

Students: 599 in grades 6–12.
Charter: Focus on students with interests in performing and fine arts.
Scores: 2010 base API of 756.
oakarts.org.


Yu Ming Charter School

Oakland

Students: 105 in grades K–8. (currently kindergarten and first grades).
Charter: Mandarin Chinese language immersion program.
Scores: Unavailable, as school recently opened.
yumingschool.org.



Future Openings

Clayton Valley Charter High

Concord

Students: Currently a regular school with 1,886 students in grades 9–12.
Charter: Traditional learning environment charter conversion.
Opening: Fall 2012.
cvchs.org.


Mt. Diablo Flex Academy

Walnut Creek

Students: Grades 9–12.
Charter: Students learn online in a classroom, with teachers available for support.
Opening: Fall 2012.
k12.com/flex.

 

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Added: 2012-09-25

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