Sunday, January 02, 2000

Charter schools threaten CPS

More groups apply to open alternatives

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After losing 1,600 students last year, most to charter schools, Cincinnati Public Schools is about to lose more.

        Fourteen groups have applied to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to open charter schools in Cincinnati next fall. Three are negotiating contracts with ODE; seven are under review; three were rejected; and one postponed until 2001. One applicant also hopes to open charter schools in Middletown and Hamilton.

        Five state-approved charter schools already operate in Cincinnati.

        Planned schools include a program for substance-abusers, several basic-skills schools and a “world academy.”

        CPS Superintendent Steven Adamowski said the charter boom is a “serious situation with significant implications for funding of district-run schools and the number of staff and school buildings we are able to retain.”

        The 45,600-student district is fighting the charter-school explosion by adopting ambitious reforms to lift dismal student achievement and trying to persuade charter-school developers into signing contracts locally.

        Charter schools can be approved by the state board or local school boards; some educators say local approval helps ensure local control.

        Four groups submitted preliminary contracts with CPS to open district-approved charter schools: Engineering and Technology Academy, Trade and Technology Prep, East End Community Heritage School and Lighthouse Community School. Board members are reviewing the contracts and expect to vote in January.

        “It's important that we stay on our course for all the reforms we're working on,” board member Sally Warner said. “We need to change, and we have a lot of changes that are being implemented now. We need to stay focused on the reforms if we want to remain the best choice.”

        Applicants negotiating contracts are:

        Dohn Community High School. Kate Bower, a Lakota Schools administrator, plans to open a school for 80 at-risk students in grades 9-12. CPS rejected Ms. Bower's proposal in September, saying she didn't provide enough research to show the school would be well-attended and such services should be provided through partnerships with community groups.

        Technological College Preparatory World Academy. Karen French, an assistant principal at Roselawn Condon School in CPS, hopes to open this K-8 school for 384 students.

        A.B. Myree Fundamental Academy. Pauline Olverson, a special education teacher in CPS, and Glenda Myree, a former CPS teacher, would open this K-8 school for 396 students.

        ODE officials still are reviewing these proposals:

        Summit Academy for Alternative Learners of Cincinnati. Peter DiMezza of Akron hopes to open a school for 45 at-risk students in grades 3-8. Mr. DiMezza operates a school for learning-disabled children in Akron and has applied to open charter schools next fall in most of Ohio's bigger cities, including Middletown and Hamilton.

        Greater Cincinnati Academy. H. Marie Congo, who founded the Greater Cincinnati Christian Academy, hopes to open three K-5 schools in Price Hill, Roselawn and the inner city with 180 students at each site. They would be modeled after a basic-skills, K-8 charter school she opened in Northside earlier this fall.

        Academy of Cincinnati. Wilhelmina Hall, superintendent of Charter Schools Administrative Services in Detroit, proposed this K-12 school, which would enroll 300 students.

        W.E.B. DuBois. Wilson Willard III, who teaches in the Princeton City School District, plans this school, which would enroll 80 students in grades 3-6.

        M. Booth Academy. Cameron Beavers, a consultant and Springdale resident, wants to open a K-7 school for 64 at-risk students.

        ODE officials rejected three other applicants' proposals:

        Hamilton County Mathematics & Science Academy (K-8). Applicant: Linda McIntyre, a technology consultant formerly associated with Harmony Community School.

        Agape Community School (K-8). Applicant: Louise Freeman, a former teacher and principal in CPS and Catholic schools.

        Primary Academy of Technology (K-3). Applicant: Wilbur Sanford.

        Johanna Kremer postponed her proposal until 2001 to open the Cincinnati Leadership Academy for students in grades 7-12. Ms. Kremer is a University of Cincinnati student and Loveland resident who used to volunteer at the Harmony Community School in Bond Hill, one of Cincinnati's first charter schools. She plans to model her school after success guru Stephen Covey's self-improvement “habits.”

        State law allows up to 75 new charter schools to open statewide in fall 2000, and another 125 new schools in fall 2001, ODE spokeswoman Dorothea Howe said.


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