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VIRGINIA: Norfolk charter school plan gets mostly warm welcome

connecticut-charter-schoolsSuperintendent Samuel King’s ambitious plan to transform the struggling division appears to have support from elected and community leaders who argue bold innovation is what the schools need.

King met this week with community organizers to answer questions and gather support for his plan to convert 10 of the division’s 46 schools into public charters. He also wants to create an open-campus high school for students who have fallen behind or dropped out.

The initiative, which still needs School Board approval, is one of several discussed this year, including the construction of four new elementary schools and a comprehensive career and technical high school. The division is hiring a demographer to prepare for redistricting and consolidating schools.

But King, along with several board members, said this week that the growing list of projects is not a problem because they complement one another.

“We cannot afford to cut corners when it comes to the transformation initiative,” board member Rodney Jordan said.

The board needs to support being “bold and ambitious” as long as the necessary help and resources are in place for students and teachers, he said.

Administrators have discussed the proposal with teachers and principals and are working to inform parents and community members. More meetings will take place over the summer, said Elizabeth Thiel Mather, a division spokeswoman.

The targeted schools would be converted into public charters with themes including International Baccalaureate and NASA. The schools still would adhere to state curriculum, and students still would take annual Standards of Learning exams, said Linda Sevigny, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning. What would change: the school calendar and the manner in which teachers deliver lessons.

Tawana Hardy, treasurer of Lafayette-Winona PTA, said she’s excited for the changes. Under the plan, Lafayette-Winona Middle School would offer an International Baccalaureate theme. Hardy said many of the elements in the charter proposal align with what the school’s principal has in place.

“This change will be good for Lafayette-Winona,” Hardy said. “I don’t think that any of the components would be of any hindrance.”

The division is moving quickly to implement some of the changes as early as next school year. The fast pace has left many with lingering questions and a little apprehension.

“I’m all for the school system being creative and innovative and aggressive, but I think that you owe the public a little more information when you’re talking about the possibility of making some of this transition in the fall,” Vice Mayor Anthony Burfoot said.

Vicky Greco, a parent and member of the school advocacy group Norfolk GAINS, said she wants to learn more about the plans for each school. Still, she said, she’s optimistic the division is moving in the right direction.

“This is a critical point in the division’s history,” Greco said. “This is a courageous move.”

Source: The Virginian-Pilot – by Sarah Hutchins

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This entry was posted on June 19, 2013 by in Charter Schools, Virginia and tagged .

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