Sunday, May 24, 2009

Daily Bulletin Friday, May 22, 2009 by Neil Nisperos Staff Writer

CHINO - Supporters for the creation of a new charter school have made their case to school district officials.

The supporters - including 50 Edwin Rhodes Elementary School parents and teachers - recently submitted a petition to the Chino Valley Unified School District to request the authorization.

The school district is expected to provide a response by June 18.

If the school board decides to reject the request, the supporters will file an appeal to San Bernardino County.

Supporters have said they would like to establish a charter school, which would be called the Oxford Preparatory Academy, because of:

- The school district's shrinking budget,

- The need for more school community autonomy over program decision-making,

- The desire to keep effective, but recently laid off, teachers, and

- Continuing familiar programs beyond the sixth grade.

"Charter education can be an extremely efficient tool for local management of resources and improving the rigor and performance of academic programs," said Carrie Birchler, who is coordinating efforts to open the charter school and is a parent of a Rhodes Elementary student.

"Our charter petition is truly a grassroots-community effort, supported by an emerging trend in both high-level political and corporate support as America's public education system clearly needs a departure from broken systems and should embrace new systems. We owe our children

a better way."

Charter schools are elementary or secondary schools that receive public funds, but don't have to follow all the rules, regulations and statutes that apply to other public schools. The charter school would be expected to achieve certain results laid out in its charter.

Organizers said they hope to create a K-8 charter school and anticipate open enrollment for about 500 students.

Locations, including along Fairfield Ranch Road, are being scouted in the Chino Valley area for the charter school, Birchler said.

If district students attend the charter school, it could lead to the loss of daily attendance funds for Chino Valley Unified.

The issue is of concern, "especially in these economic times, Board of Education member Michael Calta said.

"You do lose (daily attendance) money, but you also lose expenses associated with it. At the end of the day, I still don't know what the net loss would be."

The school board won't know the net loss until staff members conduct an analysis.

Board president Sylvia Orozco said the loss of state attendance money is a concern, but "at the same token, it's not something we're going to focus on and make it the rush now, as to why to deny something like that."

Rhodes Elementary, located at 6655 Schaefer Ave. in Chino, has the top Academic Performance Index scores in the district as well as the county.

District officials have expressed concern over the loss of top-scoring students, which could impact test scores and school accountability standings.

Some school board members have voiced concern that policy would lead to the recruitment of high-achieving students from district schools and that a public lottery would be better.

"What ends up happening, is that when you recruit, you go out and find the highest performing students and help get applications set up ahead of time, and the bell rings, you already have an enrollment of 500 students, instead of taking applications randomly, and choosing specific students to be first in line," Calta said.

"A public lottery would be the fair approach to enrollment. Everybody would have a fair chance."

If established as a charter school, Oxford Preparatory Academy will have a first-come, first-serve enrollment policy.

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