The Baltimore school board approved applications last night for six charter schools, including an all-boys academy with an extended day and a language immersion program.
The approved schools encompass a broad range of strategies to educate low-performing students in a jurisdiction that already had the majority of all charter schools in Maryland. However, the rejection of seven other applications demonstrated a rigorous review process, and the system's reluctance to move ahead with too many too quickly.
Early in the meeting, Michael Carter, chair of the Parent and Community Advisory Board, warned the school board against moving too quickly. Board chairman Brian D. Morris agreed, saying, "The system is struggling with how charter schools fit."
With its vote, the board will enter into contract negotiations with the operators of the six new charter schools. In three cases, existing city schools will be converted to charters - as public schools that operate independently under contracts with the school system.
The seven rejected applications were for proposals not recommended by interim schools CEO Charlene Cooper Boston.
Among those rejected were two that would have catered to foster children. Rejections can be appealed to the state Board of Education.
Baltimore is home to 17 of the state's 24 charter schools. Last night's approvals will bring the city total to 23.
The proposals that were approved are:
Bluford Drew Jemison Math Science Technology Academy. The school plans to serve 300 middle school boys in East Baltimore, with an extended school day and school year.
Baltimore International Academy. The language immersion school in Hamilton plans to instruct about 490 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade in Chinese, French or Russian.
Independence School Local 1. This is a program in the Robert Poole Middle School complex in Hampden. It serves 42 struggling high school students now. But as a charter school, it will grow to serve 112. Run by the Baltimore Teacher Network, it does not rely on a prescribed curriculum and focuses on projects and internships.
Dr. Rayner Browne Elementary and General Wolfe Elementary. These existing schools will convert to charters run by the Baltimore Curriculum Project. They use the direct-instruction teaching model, which involves a highly structured school day. General Wolfe will change its name to Wolfe Street Academy. Dozens of Wolfe supporters turned out for the vote, and cheered the approval.
Baltimore Freedom Academy. This existing city high school, serving 400 students, will convert to a charter school in the 2008-2009 school year. It submitted its application too late to convert in 2007.
The new charters will be preparing to open amid an environment of uncertainty about how they will be funded.
The city school board is appealing a ruling by the state Court of Appeals that school systems must give their charter schools the same funding as other schools.
The city spends the equivalent of about $11,000 per child in its regular public schools. Charter schools receive $5,859 per child in cash and the rest in services that the school system provides, such as special education and food. Many of the schools want the $11,000 in cash.
Also last night, school board member Diane Bell McKoy announced her resignation. McKoy, who said the meeting would be her last, recently became chief executive of Associated Black Charities and felt she did not have the time to commit to both positions.
Her departure leaves three of the board's nine seats vacant.