Selected readings on US charter schools
The High School for Health Care and Research, the potential charter’s working name, is not the first specialized charter to focus on health care professions, but it could be the first one to be jointly operated by two districts.
Patricia Deklotz, superintendent of the Kettle Moraine School District, and Patricia Neudecker, superintendent of the Oconomowoc Area School District, connected in the fall of 2012 to discuss the opportunity of having a charter that benefited two districts instead of one.
“It just didn’t seem it should be limited,” Deklotz said. “Pat and I have been in conversation for the past several years about the need for districts to collaborate.”
The potential charter school, which would have about 100 students, is only in the beginning stages but, if approved by the school boards, could open as early as fall 2014.
Deklotz and Neudecker sensed a need for a charter geared toward educating students on health professions after seeing the growing need for health care workers both nationally and locally.
“Health care is one of the career paths for high school students, and I know that in Wisconsin and across the United States it is the largest sector of new jobs,” Neudecker said.
Staff from Kettle Moraine and Oconomowoc collaborated and applied for a one-year state Department of Public Instruction planning grant worth $225,000 to help fund both time off to work on planning and access to resources. The grant was submitted last week and the districts expect to find out if it was approved come summer. But they intend to go ahead with the planning even if they don’t get the grant.
Both superintendents said there is much still to decide on, including curriculum, location and what grade level to begin at.
Still, there are items that have received positive reactions from the school boards, teachers and communities and are likely to appear in the final proposal. The charter’s population is planned to be split in half, 50 students coming from Kettle Moraine and 50 from Oconomowoc. The students would still have their core classes but also would have seminars focused on the full range of health professions, health care issues and competencies. And three local health care institutions would partner with the charter to provide students with hands-on experience and insight from practicing professionals.
The districts intend to partner with Aurora Health Care in Summit, the Medical College of Wisconsin and ProHealth Care at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital.”With the richness of the resources we have right here with major hospitals and a major research hospital, we can bring the best of our resources of our area together to serve the kids of our region,” Neudecker said.
Deklotz believes the future students will find a high level of rigor at the school because it will have a focus on research, primarily provided by the Medical College of Wisconsin.
“There are high-achieving students that do want to go into the research field and we would ensure that rigor was there,” Deklotz said.
A decision on who will make up the charter’s staff has not been made. The idea of having teachers from both districts and professionals from the three partners acting as adjunct professors has been bounced around but ultimately will be determined by the charter school’s governance council.
The High School for Health Care and Research is not the only specialized health care charter in the state of Wisconsin. The Waukesha Academy of Health Professions opened in 2004 and educates 187 students in a broad range of health professions.
Richard Lehman, administrator of the Waukesha Academy, believes specialized charters allow students to explore topics they have a passion for. “I think it is an advantage for different communities,” Lehman said. “We, as a school district, have the support of our curriculum director, superintendent and school board members and want to provide the best schools, the best charter schools and in general have best education offerings for students.”
Waukesha Academy of Health Professions has a broad focus on health care careers and is expanding its curriculum to encompass biomedical engineering.
Neudecker does not see any problem with having two similar charters schools and envisions the High School for Health Care and Research to be a bit more innovative. She referred specifically to the partnerships with the medical facilities and the additional possibility of children learning in two different school buildings.
“What we’re thinking of is that learning at a charter school can take place at a variety of places. Students could take core courses at one site (and) then go to a health care facility for hands-on learning.”
Source: Journal-Sentinel – by Andrea Anderson