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September 09, 2008
Group hopes to open charter school
TRINIDAD, Colorado (STPNS) -- A group of concerned locals are planning to open a public charter school in Trinidad. The school, Trinidad International Academy (TIA), would be open to all local children of school age, have 12 grades, and is currently scheduled to open for the 2009-2010 school year.
TIA Board President and local attorney Dennis Malone defined the largest improvement that TIA could offer to potential students as "choice."
"We have a personal education plan that starts with the parent, the teachers and the student," Malone said in a phone call Friday. "That plan will be developed between the parent, teachers and student."
In addition to Malone, other board members include real estate broker Ed Trommeter as vice president and businesswoman and parent Tami Felthager as secretary. The board has also hired as a consultant educator Henry Tschopp, internationally experienced in opening charter schools.
Malone went on to define each student's personal education plan as a sort of contract. "That contract will need to be met. We're asking each parent, 'what do you want for your kid?' We're asking each kid, 'what do you want out of your education?'" Malone said. "And that will become what we're trying to do: some will want a vocational path, some will want an academic path, and we will then try to give the best possible education we can (according to those parameters)."
Malone also said that TIA would be offering two-to-four foreign language classes and advanced math classes offered sooner than typical in other area public schools. "We believe we can properly teach some math at an earlier age," he said. "We're going to have a different curriculum...these kids will be able to accelerate at their own pace."
Malone explained the students' self-directed pacing as, "If that student excels halfway through the year and finishes math, he will go right into the next year's math. We will not wait (till the next year) to start him."
Preparing students for a competitive global economy was said by Malone to be the overarching aim of TIA. "We are trying to prepare people for what we think is what they're going to need to compete in a global world," he said. "The curriculum that we're using and the methods that we're going to be using have been tested in over 30 schools here and in foreign countries by our consultant, Mr. Tschopp."
An Aug. 18 article in The Rocky Mountain News, using Denver-based charter school West Denver Preparatory as an example, suggested that charter schools produced higher levels of student achievement for the same cost as regular public schools.
TIA is planned to have an open-door policy for local students and is expecting about 220 of them its first year. It would be part of Trinidad School District No. 1 and administered by the district, though operating autonomously. "They'd become an independent board, independent from our board, but we'd do the administration for them so they'd stay on our books, but they are independent," Trinidad School District No. 1 Interim Superintendent Mike Tranter said. "So, they'd come up with their own curriculum and teach however they want."
According to local school district policies, groups wishing to submit an application for the creation of a charter school need to do so before Oct. 1. The state statute governing the creation of charter schools places application deadlines between Aug. 15 and Oct. 1.
The reaction to the idea of the charter school by Trinidad School District No. 1's governing body has been mixed. Tranter informed the district's board of education of the potential formation of TIA at the board's Aug. 13 meeting.
"I'd like to engage in a pretty open dialogue up front with them," Tranter had said. "I'd just like to engage in discussion, find out what some of the concerns of the group are, is there any way we can accommodate those concerns, possibly without going the charter school route."
Tranter had also spoken of his "economic concerns" about the charter school. "In charter schools, the total revenue pie for the community stays the same, and depending on how you structure the charter school, if you end up adding a lot of infrastructure costs...you're adding infrastructure to the total pie and you have to balance that out against your education resources," he said. "We can end up in a situation where we have to let go of more teachers than the charter school can afford to hire."
Tranter had concluded, "For the community, there can be a net loss in the educational resources, so I just want to talk to them about that, talk about the application process."
He had also mentioned positive aspects of charter schools. "There are a lot of really strong pros for charter schools," Tranter said. "Sometimes you get a creative and different approach to curriculum."
"I don't see anything good about charter schools," Board member Vic Meyers said at the Aug. 13 meeting. "A really large community where there's lots of resources in a district and a charter school makes a negligible impact, okay. But in a district like this I can't see anything good about it."
Malone stated Friday that he saw a charter school as a positive addition to Trinidad. "To have a charter school in addition to a regular school district is an enhancement to our community," he said. "This is a win-win. If we can make this a go in our district, then we could buy services from them, they can have kids come to our school and take our special classes. This could be big."
Tranter mentioned at the Aug. 13 meeting that he was meeting with Malone to see what ways he could assist the TIA group, to which Meyers had responded, "I don't know why we should do anything...let them do the legwork."
Meyers did, however, conclude by stating to Tranter, "On the other hand, I see where you're coming from and your approach is probably wiser than mine."
The district's board is scheduled to meet with TIA's board during their September regular meeting. TIA's board is currently soliciting letters of support for the charter school from interested members of the local community. Anyone desiring more information is urged to call 846-4428 or 846-1515.
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