Board renews charter school for 6 - not 10 - years

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Tuesday's meeting of the Juneau School Board brought bittersweet results for the Juneau Community Charter School.

The school's required charter from the district was renewed, but for six years instead of the 10 the school's parent group requested.

"We're appreciative and a little disappointed at the same time," said Mike Stark, chairman of the school's Academic Policy Committee.

Under state regulations, charter schools must operate under a charter of one to 10 years, as well as have an operating contract approved by the local school board every school year.

The Juneau school's original five-year charter, granted in April 1997, will expire next year. The three-classroom downtown school, serving about 60 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, uses a project-based, arts-incorporated curriculum. The school is governed by parents, and parents must volunteer there five hours a month.

School Board Vice President Chuck Cohen proposed a six-year charter renewal, the length of time for a child and his or her parents - to complete a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade cycle.

"I'm uncomfortable with 10," he said. "I think that's a lot of water under the dam. ... My experience with programs in education in general is that they can turn direction pretty quickly."

In addition to greater parent stability over six years as opposed to 10, Cohen said he felt the yearly contract approval was not a substantive enough review of the school's progress. He said 10 years was too long a wait between the in-depth review that comes with charter renewal.

Board President Mary Becker said she was uncomfortable

making a decision extending far into the terms of future school boards.

Charter school students performed a short violin concert prior to the meeting, and several parents spoke in support of the 10-year renewal as a source of stability for the school.

"Five years would be fine, 10 would be better," parent Cindy Britten said.

Stark said the yearly contract approvals would give future boards opportunities to review the school's performance over the length of the 10-year charter.

After an amended vote on a five-year renewal failed, the six-year renewal passed by 6-1 vote. Some members who dissented preferred a longer period.

While the school did not receive its full request, Stark said he was pleased the reduced renewal came from general concerns, rather than specific concerns about the charter school.

"I didn't hear anything tonight that wasn't a vote of confidence," he said.

Andrew Krueger can be reached at akrueger@juneauempire.com.



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