City school system receives seven charter applications

Proposals include two all-girls schools and an all-male college prep school

May 14, 2013|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

The city school board is considering proposals for seven charter schools that include two named for female trailblazers, another attempt at an all-male, college-preparatory program in East Baltimore, and an elementary school for at-risk youths.

The new programs were presented to the Baltimore school board Tuesday as part of the district's annual charter application process. The applicants, the majority of which want to open in 2014, had made it through at least one round of interviews with a district charter advisory board.

The presentations come amid heightened scrutiny for independently run schools, after the city school board earlier this year revoked the licenses of several high-profile and popular programs.

The applicants are entering a process that has become more stringent in the last two years. In 2011, the city school board approved CEO Andrés Alonso's decision to deny all six applicants seeking charter status. Last year, the schools chief recommended to approve only two of four applications.

Now, the city school board will consider granting charter contracts to three single-gender programs:

•Barbara Jordan Academy for Girls, which would serve girls in kindergarten through fifth grade with a social justice-themed curriculum;

•Lillie May Carroll Jackson School, which would offer an "experiential learning community" to prepare girls in grades five through eight for the most rigorous high schools. The school's operators would be the Girls Charter School Inc., which school officials identified as a nonprofit organization created by Roland Park Country School;

•The Banneker Blake Academy of Sciences and the Arts, which would open in East Baltimore in 2015 and offer boys in grades six through eight a rigorous, college preparatory program.

Three current schools are looking to convert to charter schools or expand:

•William C. March Elementary School proposes becoming the National Education Partners, William March Elementary School Campus, targeting students "at risk of not reaching their full potential;"

•The Green Street Academy has applied to convert from its current model as a "transformation school," a combined middle/high school with an environmentally oriented curriculum, to two charter schools that serve middle and high school students;

•The Monarch Academy Public Charter School proposes opening a Southeast Baltimore campus in 2014 to serve kindergarten through eighth grade, with a mission to produce students "who are prepared for high school … and who understand that the goal of life is to serve a cause larger than one's self."

After the presentation, school board Commissioner David Stone said he was surprised by the number of middle school programs this year.

Commissioner Jerrelle F. Francois noted that many of the applicants' missions didn't seem unique.

"A lot of things they said they want to do, we already have in a lot of our traditional schools," Francois said. "I want to know how they are different."

The school board will hold a public review on the new charter applicants June 4 and will vote on recommendations to award or deny licenses June 11.

In February, the school board revoked the contracts of several schools, among them the charter licenses of Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy Middle School and Baltimore Freedom Academy, and the "transformation school" Baltimore Civitas Middle/High School.

The board, which was split on the recommendations by Alonso, voted to cancel the contracts of Civitas and Baltimore Freedom Academy and close them at the end of the school year.

While the all-male, Bluford Drew Jemison's East Baltimore campus lost its charter license, it will remain open as a traditional program.

erica.green@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EricaLG

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