Board OKs new charter school policy

Regulation of application process, housing, operation, funding issues covered

Posted: Thursday, April 06, 2006

Not everyone talking about charter schools at the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting approved of a new policy under consideration, but most accepted the compromise pact and board members voted 8 to 1 in favor of it.

After several months, the school district’s Charter School Study Team, consisting of representatives from charter schools and neighborhood schools, reached agreement on the bulk of the policy, according to Assistant Superintendent Glen Szymoniak, though not everyone agreed with every detail.

The policy stipulates the application procedure for establishing a charter school, regulates the operation of a charter school in a school district public school, states how charter schools are to be funded and outlines education standards students must attain.

Charter schools, which were started under the Clinton administration, operate in regular public school buildings but have the option of establishing their own curricula and reading lists, separate from those in use by public schools.

Under the policy approved at Monday’s meeting, charter schools may use public school facilities on the approval of the KPBSD school board, and the schools superintendent will determine if the amount of space requested by the charter school will be available each year, based on enrollment projections and school capacity.

“The superintendent will negotiate the terms of sharing a facility and make recommendations to the board (of education) at a work session,” the policy states.

Earlier, Szymoniak said, “The big issues are ‘Who’s the boss?’ and the issue of facility size and space usage.”

Larry Nauta, administrator of Aurora Borealis Charter School, told the school board the new policy “is as good as any document that has come through ... certainly not perfect.”

Saying she represented Janet McNary of Homer, Debbie Carroll said, “Our group did not always agree, but we worked to compromise.”

Teresa Brown, a member of the Soldotna Montessori Charter School academic policy committee, said, “We made some very positive gains,” in reference to the new policy.

“This policy needs more work. Please don’t approve it tonight,” said Kiki Abrahamson, a teacher from Fireweed Academy Charter School in Homer.

On the opposite side of the issue, Barbara Ralston, a teacher at Sears Elementary School in Kenai, said, “I appreciate all your support. Please pass it.”

On a motion by Dr. Nels Anderson, the board did approve the new policy with all in favor, except Marty Anderson.

While no applications currently are pending to start a charter school on the Kenai Peninsula, four charter schools already exist here: Fireweed Academy, Soldotna Montessori, Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science in Kenai and Aurora Borealis in the Kenai Alternative High School.

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