Those two little words can incite both furious opposition and adamant support, depending on where they’re being said, to whom, and in what context.
Tonight, East Ramapo officials and the public will hear about a charter school in the works called the Rockland Academy of Excellence, which would enroll students in grades 6-8 in Rockland County.
When I wrote about the proposal last September, applicants told me they envisioned a “college preparatory middle school serving students from East Ramapo and surrounding districts, including special-education students and English Language Learners.”
They originally hoped to open it this fall, but now expect that if approved, it will open in August 2014.
East Ramapo officials said last year they were opposed to the plan because it would require the deficit-plagued district to find $2 million in its budget to fund the charter school.
Since then, the organizers of the charter may have modified their plans. But the school district certainly isn’t getting any richer, so I’d be surprised if they change their tune. Still, anything can happen.
Applicants will present their plan as it stands now and hear public comment tonight, at 7 p.m. at the district headquarters, 105 S. Madison Ave., Spring Valley.
Here’s my full story from last year:
Friday, September 28, 2012
East Ramapo charter school backers tout alternative for students; district cites costs
Supporters of a proposed charter school are touting the need to give parents in the East Ramapo school district an alternative to the fast-growing, deficit-plagued public schools.
“We need to try something new here, because we’re having such problems in the public schools,” retired East Ramapo staffer Mae Davis told about 30 supporters and district officials at a hearing Thursday night.
As proposed, the Rockland Academy of Excellence would be the first of its kind in the county: a small, college preparatory middle school serving students from East Ramapo and surrounding districts, including special-education students and English Language Learners.
The organizers, including several current East Ramapo teachers and administrators, hope to open the school in fall 2013 with 90 students in sixth grade. Ultimately, 270 students would enroll in grades six through eight. East Ramapo students could apply first, and then those from neighboring districts if spots were open.
North Rockland and Clarkstown districts have shown interest, said Peter Obe, a father of three who would be chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees.
Obe brushed off the argument by public school administrators that charter schools place another financial burden on already struggling public schools.
“I don’t see it as something designed to destroy public education. I see it as an alternative for parents,” he said.
Several speakers said the school would be a vehicle for improved teacher accountability and academic performance and could ease overcrowding in East Ramapo schools.
Superintendent Joel Klein said the East Ramapo district could be responsible for about $2 million to fund the bulk of the charter school’s budget in its first year, including costs for transportation and special education.
“That’s the reason we’re objecting, because it’s money off the top” of East Ramapo’s budget, he said.
The academy’s budget would be supplemented with some state and federal money, about $60,000 in private funds and $500,000 in charter school grants.
Students at the academy could expect to wear uniforms, have a longer school day, and receive individualized instruction.
But first the state must give the charter the green light.
Obe said the group expects an interview with state officials in the coming months and is hopeful the school will become a reality.
Their past applications for the charter were withdrawn because they had no building, no curriculum consultant and not enough funding, he said.
“There are many facets that we have today that we didn’t have … so there’s absolutely no reason now why” it wouldn’t be accepted, Obe said.