Monday, November 8, 2010

A Step Back in Time

Last week I attended a charter school application hearing in the Thompson School District that felt like a time warp back 15 years. District (union) staff were there to speak against the charter school application and they cited old myths as their reason for not wanting a charter school. Myths that most of the state agreed 15 years ago were no longer valid.

The Thompson School District has one charter school: New Vision Charter School that is a Core Knowledge school serving grades K-8.

The school currently being proposed in Thompson is called Loveland Classical Schools (LCS) and would be a K-12 Core Knowledge school with an emphasis on classical education and modeled after the successful Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins. It came out during public testimony that all of the founders of Ridgeview came from Loveland after board members at the time (2000) told applicants they wouldn't support a charter school. Currently 126 Thompson students attend Ridgeview Classical Schools (RCS).

A couple of district staff members spoke about bad charter schools they had been associated with previously. An RCS math teacher spoke after them and said, "We agree that not all charter schools are good. But LCS isn't trying to model after one of those. LCS is trying to model after a successful charter school (RCS)."

Almost every Thompson school board member asked the charter school developers to work with them on a school-within-a-school or an Innovation School instead of the charter. One board member even stated, "We have experience in so many areas (of education) and we do it every day." The comment was apparently disparaging the capacity of parents to create a new charter school and provide a successful educational program. LCS founders cited the lack of a guarantee for longevity of the classical educational program if it were operated by the district and a concern that the classical educational philosophy would be implemented with fidelity.

The charter school application was denied on a 7-0 vote after an approximately two hour hearing, the third of such hearings in the district. Two days later LCS founders filed a motion to appeal the decision to the State Board of Education for hearing. According to statute, the State Board must hear the appeal within 60 days.

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