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CONNECTICUT: Support growing for more charter schools in Bridgeport

connecticut-charter-schoolsBRIDGEPORT — An outspoken Hartford magnet school principal, a Rhode Island education reform advocate and a longtime city teacher who also happens to be the mayor’s ex, all want the same thing: open the state’s next charter school here.

The three applications represent a third of nine applications received by the state to open charter schools this fall or next. As many as two could get the nod, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor said last week. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s 2014-15 state budget proposal includes funding for two schools.

Already home to four charter schools, more than any other district in the state — Hartford has two, New Haven has three — the idea to give the state’s most troubled school district even more comes as no surprise to Robert Bellafiore, spokesman for theNortheast Charter School Network.

“People are looking to open charters in Bridgeport because the need for better public schools is immense,” Bellafiore said. “Parent demand is huge, with 1,162 names on charter school waiting lists.”

Given that Bridgeport’s school district is the second lowest-performing district in the state — and seriously underfunded — Bellafiore said the need for options is serious.

The new plans include two schools prepared to open next fall if they receive approval — the Capital Prep Harbor School, modeled after a Hartford magnet school run by Stephen Perry and the STEAM Academy for Girls, started by Claire Mastromonaco, a fifth-grade teacher at Johnson School, who is also the ex-wife of Mayor Bill Finch.

A third contender is Great Oaks Charter School, a school spearheaded by Maryellen Butke, founding director of the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now.

Separate public hearings on the three applications are in the works, but have not yet been set. There is also an interview process while the department scores the applications before making recommendations to thestate Board of Education as early as March.

This year’s applications will be reviewed and scored according to state law and RFP rules and procedures. First, applications will be reviewed for completeness, then the department will notify applicants if their proposals move to the next phase of the process. Complete applications will be evaluated and scored against the review criteria detailed in the RFP. Applicants may be invited for interviews based on the results of the evaluation. In addition to the interview phase, public hearings will be held in the local districts. The commissioner of education will then send recommendations to the state Board of Education.

Many of the proposals have already gained support.

Finch, who said more public school choice is a good thing, wrote a letter of support for Perry’s proposed school. A member of his staff submitted a letter of support for Mastromonaco’s proposal.

“We write letters of support for anyone daring enough to come forward and try to help our children,” Finch said. “It is up to the state to determine the strongest team. I leave that up to the professionals.”

State-funded charter schools will get $11,000 per pupil to run, plus some startup funds. Districts can invest in the charter schools as well, but that would be a local decision.

The law also requires districts to provide transportation and special education costs.

Others like Marge Hiller, director of the Bridgeport Public Education Fund, said the state should concentrate on sufficiently funding existing charter schools before opening new ones.

STEAM

Mastromonaco said she has always wanted to start a school for girls. A classroom teacher for 18 years, Mastromonaco also runs the Children’s Center for the Arts. Her background is in the arts, but she loves the sciences and math and said she sees too many of her female students lose confidence and “check out” by the time they reach middle school.

She said a single-gender school that focuses on science, math and the arts will help them more feel confident.

Source: CT Post – by Linda Conner Lambeck

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This entry was posted on February 10, 2014 by in Charter Schools, Connecticut, States.

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