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December 12, 2012
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Resident group withdraws application to create charter school

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - A group of residents has withdrawn an application to create a charter school in the community, citing shortcomings in Nevada law that don't allow for newer-age educational opportunities for public students and perceived problems with the state authority that's been created to approve the schools.Last Wednesday, Incline resident Kathryn Kelly, who runs the eLearning Caf in town and is a spokesperson for The Committee to Form The Clark School, detailed three specific reasons for the withdrawal in a letter to Nevada Superintendent of Schools James W. Guthrie, all of which question how the Nevada Public Charter School Authority operates:• Lack of blended learning in state law,• Lack of proficiency-based learning in state law; and • Lack of state charter authority emphasis on best practices and student outcomes."... While the Authority appears to have statutory support for implementing best practices should it wish to do so, in practice its focus is clearly to ensure charter schools conform to current practices, which have not resulted in great student achievement in Nevada..." Kelly wrote in the letter.In a phone interview this week, Kelly said her hope is politicians introduce bills in support of upgrading Nevada's education laws, and that they are eventually adopted during the 2013 legislative sessions in Carson City in hopes of perhaps adding some reform to the state charter school authority, which was established through a 2011 legislative bill backed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.According to various media reports, part of Sandoval's plan to attack the state's dismal ranking in national education is to create more charter schools in an effort to also provide incentive for more families to move to the state, and in turn improve its economy.It was a message echoed in the application submitted this fall by The Committee to Form The Clark School. According to it, The Clark School (a working title) proposed a tuition-free, K-12 public charter school that would improve Incline Village's capability of becoming an "education destination" in an era of shrinking school enrollment, budgets and academic options due to the Great Recession-aided exodus of middle class families from Lake Tahoe by offering more education opportunities that would benefit current and future residents.Aside from the blended learning approach currently offered at the eLearning Caf, which highlights proficiency-based education rather than being based on number of days present in an actual classroom, the school would have emphasized on English language learning and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses. While its location was to be determined, according to the application, it planned to open in July 2013.The state authority eventually denied the application, labeling it "inadequate" and that the committee in "developing a unique and non-traditional education model, demonstrated a potential lack of understanding of fundamental public school requirements."On Dec. 5, as the deadline to submit an updated application neared, Kelly informed Steve Canavero, director of the state authority, about the group's decision to withdraw.In a phone interview this week, Incline resident Jim Clark, another member of the local charter school committee, said the move doesn't mean the idea is dead. "I think the interest is still there; a lot of people are very much in favor," said Clark, who writes a weekly, unpaid political column for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.When the committee's plans first surfaced in mid-October, it stirred some controversy in the community. According to previous reports, some residents suggested that if the charter school reached its goal of an eventual full-time enrollment of 150 students, that same number of children may be taken away from the current schools, which in turn would lose funding from the state and Washoe County School District and have fewer teacher allocations.In an interview for a Nov. 1 story, Kelly said the idea of a successful charter school would be that, rather than take away money from the current schools, the net increase in student population would bring additional state and federal funds to Incline Village.This week, Kelly said "plenty of support" still exists to create a charter school, and that feedback the committee has received the past few weeks has been at roughly an 80 percent to 20 percent clip, positive vs. negative."The comments we've gotten have been overwhelmingly positive .. they're saying 'please don't give up,'" Kelly said.As for what's next, the earliest a group can submit a fresh application to the state authority is next summer. However, the committee will likely wait and see how the 2013 Legislature progresses, Kelly and Clark said.Regardless, if the group does choose to move forward, Kelly said the committee will do a better job of communicating things in the future to avoid confusion so parents and teachers are better informed.Read more about the proposed charter here: http://www.tahoebonanza.com/article/20121101/NEWS/121109999&parentprofile=search


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 12, 2012 10:20PM Published Dec 12, 2012 10:17PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.