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by Jack Minor
After months of animosity toward the idea of a new charter school, the board voted to approve it despite reservations.
Wayne Eads, district chief financial officer, said the contract authorizing Westridge charter academy recommended approving the contract pending final review. Eads explained that for “complicated contracts” this was a fairly common procedure for both parties to clean up some language and typos.
Prior to approving the contract, members had some hard questions for Eads prior to voting for approval. The questions centered around their wanting the school to represent the diversity of the community. Judy Kron, who appeared the most hostile to approving the school, said she, “will not support a future extension of this contract” if it does not represent the demographics of our district.
Other members were fearful that, despite the school making efforts to recruit at-risk students, they nevertheless were not doing enough to help parents provide a way for the students to get to the school.
Westridge committed to providing 40 percent of their 139.5 slots to students from three schools with overcrowding; Dos Rios, Heiman and Centennial. Parents have a 30-day window to decide whether they want their children to apply for enrollment at Westridge. Following the period from April 15-May 13 Westridge would then have the ability to fill any remaining slots from the 40 percent among the general community. Westridge would also reimburse the district for transportation costs from students in these areas.
Kron felt these actions were not enough to satisfy concerns of meeting the demographic target. She felt a month was not long enough for parents to fill out the application. “I am quite uncomfortable with the time table since this is a brand new concept in our district to target these schools and provide transportation.” Other board members expressed similar concerns. Eads pointed out the concept of a window is not new with the district having a window for open enrollment at the schools.
Once a student from one of these schools fills out an application and is accepted, Westridge will then conduct an assessment of students to determine their level of knowledge. This will help with placing students so they receive the proper level of instruction. Kron felt having the assessment at their new school could prove to be a hardship on parents and suggested Westridge conduct the assessments at the students’ old schools.
Concern was also expressed over Westridge having members of the board who did not live in the district. Eads explained there was no legal requirement they do so. This prompted Kron to say she hoped they would “strongly encourage” the school to have board members live in the district.
Dr. Julia Richard was worried that if the school did not fill 40 percent of the slots the first year they would not reach similar goals the following year when preference is given to existing students and their siblings.
Robert Stack asked about the steps the district would take to recruit “our Somali families or if you speak Russian or Portuguese.” Eads replied it was the job of Westridge, not the district, to recruit students. Following discussion, the board voted to approve Westridge Charter Academy on a 6-0 vote.
Tags: Academy, board, Centennial, concept, conduct, district, help, Judy, Judy Kron, Julie Richards, language, month, percent, Robert Stack, student, support, target, West Ridge, Westridge Charter Academy, year