Visit the The Raton Range website
October 28, 2008
Charter school board hears district concerns
RATON, New Mexico (STPNS) -- Members of the board of education for proposed charter school Trinidad International Academy (TIA) met Thursday with Trinidad School District No. 1's (TSD) accountability committee to discuss TIA's plans and the committee's concerns about the charter school's potential impact on the district's finances and the achievement gap between its average and at-risk students.
If approved, TIA would be part of TSD and open free of charge to interested local students within the boundaries of instructional capacity, though it would operate under its own rules and plans to have an personalized academic plans for each individual student along with an accelerated curriculum and the potential to study abroad in the later grades. TIA hopes to have 220 students for its first year of operation during the 2009-2010 school year, though the scope of the program is currently a matter of discussion between TIA and TSD's administration.
"We're still in the negotiation process for this," TIA educational consultant Henry Tschopp said. "The thing we'd like to find out is, is this (TIA) really good for our kids?"
TIA is currently awaiting approval or rejection of its charter school application from TSD. The application was submitted Sept. 30, and the 75-day statutory consideration period gives TSD until mid-December to render a verdict. However, should the application be rejected, TIA would have the option of appealing to the state government.
TIA board members present at Tuesday's meeting included board vice president Ed Trommeter, board member Tracy Roach and Tschopp, who possesses experience in opening charter schools on three continents.
TSD Interim Superintendent Mike Tranter informed the accountability committee that it was a "key advisory group," and had a large role to play in the TSD board of education's decision on whether or not to approve TIA's application. "The board's going to have to make a recommendation whether to accept this thing," Tranter said. "They'll be receiving input from other parts of the community, and one of those parts is going to be input from the accountability committee...you guys will be playing a key role in some of the input that goes to the board of education."
Tschopp urged all people invested in the district to examine the aims of the charter school and decide for themselves whether they wanted the potential opportunities it could provide to be available for area students. "Whenever a program like this proposing a charter school is making an application into the school district, everyone in the district has to take a look and say, 'is this what we want?'" he said. "The school board has to take a look and say, 'is this a good program for our kids?' The parents have to take a look and say, 'is this a good program for me and for my kids?' The community has to take a look and ask the same question."
He concluded, "Then the negotiation goes through so it's a win-win...it would be very foolish for us not to have that approach and have it work that way."
Concerns toward TIA voiced at Thursday's meeting included the financial impact the charter school could have on TSD and the possible effect of TIA on TSD's attempts to close its achievement gap. Achievement gap is the term used to describe how students in the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum tend to test poorer than their more affluent peers. In Colorado, students are officially designated as belonging to that lower class by qualifying for the "free or reduced" lunch program. Tranter stated at Thursday's meeting that about 65 percent of TSD's students were so classified.
Several district personnel present at the meeting voiced a concern that TIA, with its heavy parental involvement, would attract from TSD mostly students that were already high achievers, leaving TSD with the larger percentage of "free and reduced" students and causing, statistically, the district's achievement gap to widen.
"If you're looking for families with parents who want to be involved, you're not targeting all of our students, you're not targeting (TSD's) 40 percent minority students," Trinidad Middle School Teacher Angela Hadaway said. "You're targeting our educated parents who have kids who they see going to college."
She continued, "You're targeting me as a white parent who has kids I know are going to be in college prep programs; you're not targeting this little kid whose mother works two jobs to feed the four kids they have and the kid goes home to babysit every afternoon. I don't know how you think you're going to get these parents involved when we can't get them involved."
Tranter had stated at the TSD's previous meeting with TIA that, "Ethnicity in this community lines up with the 'free and reduced'/at-risk population (of students)."
The possible financial impact of TIA on the district was one of the more frequently voiced concerns at the meeting, with special attention paid to impact on the number of teachers TSD would possibly have to let go if TIA was accepted at its currently proposed size. Calling the possible economic effects "catastrophic," Tranter broadly estimated the number of teachers that TSD would be unable to afford retaining at 14-28, though it was acknowledged that the final scope of TIA, if approved, was still open to discussion.
Trinidad Middle School Counselor Kevin Crosby told the TIA members about the fear that the possible economic consequences of the charter school was causing among TSD staff. "I think some of those younger teachers, teachers that haven't been at the district long, are thinking, 'I should maybe start updating my resume now,'" Crosby said. "And I'm serious, I've talked to people...they're ready to jump; they're think that - 10,20,28 people - unless they've been here for quite a number of years, they'd be the first to go."
Tschopp responded to the concerns with assurances that TIA had the students' and the community's best interest in mind. "We want to work through so it's a win-win. We want to be able to incorporate this into what our kids already have," he said. "A school of choice, more options: we want to bring that into our school district for all our kids. We don't want to make it a stuffing-something-down-somebody's throat issue. We want to negotiate and make it work so it's a win-win"
TIA is currently soliciting letters of support for the charter school from interested members of the local community. More information can be found at TIAcharter.org, and the school's curriculum can be found at TIAcharter.info.
TSD's accountability committee meets regularly at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month.
© 2013 The Raton Range
Raton, New Mexico. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from STPNS