Superintendent Recommends Against Public Charter School Application

September 7, 2001
Based on the findings of an independent panel of education, community, and business representatives, Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, has recommended against approving an application to initiate a public charter school in Montgomery County.

The recommendation was made this week to the Board of Education, which will be reviewing the application at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, September 11.

“Starting and opening a new school is a complex, multimillion-dollar enterprise, requiring a great deal of planning and investment of resources,” said Dr. Weast. “I am not convinced that acceptance of the application for the Jaime Escalante Public Charter School would offer a unique alternative to existing public school programs, nor do I believe that it would produce an instructional program that would be aligned with educational and budgetary priorities of the Board of Education.”

However, Dr. Weast said “there is a place in this system for a public charter school that could serve targeted groups of children. Indeed, a public charter school could serve as a laboratory for implementing a unique environment in which best practices for instructional improvements could be advanced for the benefit of the entire school system.”

The superintendent said “the entrepreneurial aspects of the charter school movement can be of great use to public education, especially in Montgomery County where we need to continually challenge ourselves to implement rigorous academic programs that include specific strategies to improve student achievement and close the gap in student performance by race and ethnicity. Certainly, a public charter school as envisioned by the applicants must meet this challenge as well.”

Dr. Weast said his recommendation to the Board of Education concerning this one application is based on the input received from the staff, community, and employee association representatives and the independent Blue Ribbon Panel, which voted unanimously not to support the Jaime Escalante Public Charter School application. He said the examination of the application involved “a fair and extensive” review process similar to procedures for reviewing grant proposals.

Members of the independent Blue Ribbon Panel included Dr. Gloria Grantham, dean of education at Trinity College; Dr. Sandra G. Yates, chairperson of the Department of Education at the University of the District of Columbia; Mr. Phil Tajitsu Nash, professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland; Mr. Michael Finnegan, vice president of Bank of America; Mr. Fernado Cruz Villalba, a Hispanic community leader; and Mr. Doug Schiffman, president of Ninelives Computer Company. Both Mr. Finnegan and Mr. Schiffman also are members of the Montgomery County Business Roundtable on Education.

[Note: A copy of the superintendent’s report to the Board of Education is available at the link below as a PDF file.]

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