Tuesday’s Charter School Institute board of directors meeting included the final charter application hearing for two schools. Colorado Calvert Academy Charter School and Mountain Middle School. The Colorado Calvert Academy will provide an online program for grades K-8 using Calvert Education System’s (CES) curriculum.
Calvert has a long history in the education industry. The days schools began in 1897 in the Baltimore area. CES also offers home school program curriculum and has entered the online learning arena over the past few years. Laurie Duke, the steering committee chair told me, “CES has been a leader in home instruction for over 100 years serving families all around the globe. In the last decade CES has entered the on-line learning arena and has partnered with many public school districts across the country. This fall, South Carolina Calvert Academy Charter School opened its door using CES. It is our closest model.”
The Calvert application featured the Calvert curriculum as well as Calvert as the provider of most of the school’s services. This dependence on Calvert is one of the reasons that this application did not succeed in 2008. However, the hard work of the local board in recruiting additional members helped Calvert overcome last year’s issues. In addition, The CCA board hired Brad Miller, an attorney from Colorado Springs specializing in charter schools. Brad’s expert counsel helped our board make some pivotal changes to our service agreement with CES. I was also hired to review the budget that CES put together for the school. The Calvert school was approved with conditions that the board will meet between now and the end of the 45 day charter negotiation period between the Calvert board and the CSI board.
Laurie told me after the school was approved, “We are so elated to get the CSI board’s final approval. They challenged us on every facet of the application. But, we persevered and returned a stronger and more confident board that is ready for the next phase.”
Mountain Middle School’s team made a valiant effort toward a project based learning middle school modeled after High Tech High in San Diego. Nancy Heleno, the committee chair, presented support from the National Middle School Association for their model as well as a letter from the Durango City Council. It was clear that most of the CSI board had great passion for this project and the need for a charter middle school in Durango, but they also thought that the school was a year away from being ready. The Mountain Middle School team decided to withdraw its application and learn from this interaction with the board in order to make their application even stronger. In addition, Animas High School, the project based learning charter high school in Durango, will have a year under its belt from which the Mountain Middle School team glean information and support its future application.
Nancy Heleno told me, “This is bump in the road. We will proceed with vigor. Anytime an authorizer asks an applicant to refine an application to best meet the needs of students, it is the correct course of action. Though many families of 5th, 6th and 7th graders in Durango are disappointed, the revised plan will be better than the initial application."
The most pleasant aspect of observing these two hearings was seeing the quality of people involved in both steering committees. Calvert’s committee included a long time teacher, many graduates of Calvert’s day schools, as a former leader in the Pennsylvania state department of education. The Mountain Middle School committee includes successful business people, a long time teacher and an expert in brain development. While the two schools had different outcomes at this hearing, having witnessed the passion and credentials of the MMS team, I have no doubt that Mountain Middle School will become a reality.