Charter School Opens Building

Chesapeake Science Point Often Struggled As Students Excelled

August 19, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

The Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School, a four-year-old Anne Arundel County middle school that has emerged as an academic jewel even as it has struggled to adhere to school system policies, hosted a ribbon-cutting Tuesday for its new $1.3 million facility.

"It was always our plan to move into a bigger building," said Fatih Kandil, principal of the school in Hanover. "And we did have some ups and downs, but our outcome today is telling us we are on the right track. We are accomplishing our goals."

Tuesday's ribbon-cutting for parents, students and education officials was a victory for the school, which, despite its academic success, was placed on probation in 2006 after failures in lease and budget record-keeping and a lack of a certified special-education teacher.

Chesapeake has since rebounded, correcting those violations while its students have continually scored among the top schools statewide on standardized tests.

This year, Chesapeake students scored No. 2 in the state among middle schoolers on the math portion of the Maryland State Assessments, with a passing rate of 98. In reading, Chesapeake was fifth in the state, with 97 percent of students passing.

The new building is three times the size of its former location at a nearby office park and has space for the school to expand to high school, a longtime goal of school officials. Douglas Legum, a local real estate developer, leased the former warehouse building in the 7300 block of Parkway South Drive to the school officials and donated $1.3 million in renovations. The school's new media center is named in his honor.

County Executive John R. Leopold, who attended the event and had provided a $250,000 grant from the county budget for the school's expansion, said he is hopeful that Chesapeake's success would translate to more charter schools.

"This is what our students deserve," said Ali Gurbuz, a math teacher, standing outside the school's gleaming technology center. "We will give them a better education here. We've done really good on tests, but we want to go to 100 percent, not just 97 or 98."

Acknowledging the school's tumultuous past, Board of Education President Ned Carey said the school had been on a "long and stressful journey," but had "paved the way" for school choice in the county.

The county's first charter school, the KIPP Academy, closed in 2007 after it could not find adequate space. Another charter school, the Monarch Academy, is set to open this fall in Glen Burnie.

Patrick Dudley, whose daughter Olivia is a seventh-grader at the school, snapped pictures excitedly as he toured the new building.

"It's absolutely fantastic," said Dudley, a Severn resident. "I can't say enough good about this school. Her grades were always good. Here, her grades mean more."

Alexis Fazio, a seventh-grader from Hanover, said she was excited about the school year.

"In my old school, the teachers were really mean and the schoolwork wasn't focused," Alexis said. "In this school, the teachers really care, the work is challenging and now I'm on honor roll."

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