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Tag: charter school

Weekly Wrap-Up: Legislation, contracts, charter approved

I tried something new in May, wrapping up all my short stories for The Courier-News in one post at the end of the week so as not to overwhelm anybody’s feed reader. I think I’ll stick with the format. This past week was short one, but still a good example why. In addition to today’s cover story about the new Native Medicinal Garden at the Elgin Public Museum, I wrote:

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.

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Weekly Wrap-Up: Group takes ‘Initiative’ to bring charter school to Elgin — plus one more

I’m trying something new this month, wrapping up all my short stories for The Courier-News in one post at the end of the week so as not to overwhelm anybody’s feed reader. Of course, May is that time of year when all my schools let out and I take off; this past week, to celebrate my first wedding anniversary with my husband Joel in fabulous Las Vegas. I only wrote one short story after Monday night’s Elgin School District U46 Board of Education meeting:

But then, I also wrote this cover story…

ELGIN — At one charter school downstate, students have their own farm plot. They eat some of the produce they grow, even eggs from their own chickens.

At another charter school in Chicago, administrators, teachers, parents and students decided to have single-sex seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms. At that same school, administrators also shifted gears after getting test scores in the middle of the year and reassigned the school’s resources to focus on bringing up science scores for grades four to seven.

“The decisions that can be made at charter schools are nimble,” said former Elgin District U46 teacher Karen Schock. “When something happens, you can make those changes. You work with your staff, your students and your parents. You’re working with that group instead of 20,000, like any decision a school district must make.”

That’s why Schock and several other Elgin residents have started the Elgin Charter School Initiative to research bringing a charter school to the City in the Suburbs.

That was an idea discussed by the Elgin City Council and city staff in February during their first strategic planning discussions. The strategic plan, which is expected to be completed next month, will direct the city over the next five years.

One idea that was thrown out during focus groups as part of those discussions was the creation of an education task force to explore ways the city and District U46 could work more closely together, City Councilwoman Anna Moeller told The Courier-News in March. Another was attracting a charter school to U46.

Moeller said the idea was not yet at “the nonprofit stage” then. It still isn’t, she pointed out.

The Elgin Charter School Initiative was registered March 28 as a not-for-profit corporation with the Illinois Secretary of State. Schock is listed as its agent, according to the Secretary of State website.

But it is not registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, according to Guidestar.org, which gathers and publicizes information about nonprofits.

And Moeller was clear: “This is kind of a private effort amongst a handful of us. It’s not related to the city. It didn’t get any city funding. It’s an independent effort at this point, and it probably will be always.”

For the rest of the story, read Group takes ‘Initiative’ to bring charter school to Elgin (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael R. Schmidt for Sun-Times Media.

The highest praise I ever possibly could shoot for as a journalist

This email made my day:

“Your two-part series on charter schools contains some of the best coverage on the issue I’ve seen from a local paper in a long time. Congratulations on introducing your readers to a new concept in a clear and very fair manner. School reform is fraught with distracting issues. But you found a way to convey the challenges and promise of charter schools, in a very human way.”

That’s pretty much the highest praise I ever possibly could shoot for as a journalist. Thank you!

You can read part one of that series here, and part two, here.

A ‘positive’ for Pingree: Could a charter school benefit Elgin, too? (Sun-Times Media)

This is the second in a two-part series on the first five years of the area’s one charter school — and the possibility of another.

PINGREE GROVE — By all accounts, the first year or two of Cambridge Lakes Charter School were, in Pingree Grove Village President Greg Marston’s words, “bumpy.”

There were claims of poor communication from parents and a change in administrators after only a few months of operation. Attempts to unionize by some teachers ended in court, while a lawsuit against the architect of several of the school’s academic buildings was filed by the charter holder last year.

“I think it had more to do with the fact the corporation, prior to running Cambridge Lakes, didn’t have any background in education. I think it took them a while to get up and running,” Marston said.

But, the village president added, “Definitely, I’ve heard great things about it now.”

Cambridge Lakes Charter School, now in its fifth year, has been a benefit to both the village of Pingree Grove and Community Unit School District 300, according to village and district officials.

Now Elgin officials are discussing whether a charter school wouldn’t be a benefit to the City in the Suburbs, too.

That was one of many ideas that emerged from strategic planning discussions last month about education as a “quality of life” issue, something that attracts families to a city, according to Elgin City Councilwoman Anna Moeller. Elgin’s public schools, part of School District U46, can be seen as a “barrier,” Moeller said.

“This is just a very early stage question about just education in general in U46,” she said.

“There are some strong opinions out there on both sides. I think people have kind of latched on to that concept (of charter schools). We’re not at that point yet where were hoping to recommend either way.”

For the rest of the story, read A ‘positive’ for Pingree: Could a charter school benefit Elgin, too? (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.

Chartering a new course for education in Elgin (Sun-Times Media)

This is part one of a two-part series about the first five years of the area’s one charter school — and the possibility of starting another.

PINGREE GROVE — On the drizzly, foggy Friday before spring break, preschool and kindergarten students ran in circles in the common area of one of four academic buildings at Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove. They hopped on one foot.

One boy walked on his hands. A group of girls made a ring around a teacher.

“Now find an orange square!” said Whitney Orlando, a preschool teacher.

Somebody switched off the radio, and the school’s smallest students sprinted for the orange-colored tiles in the floor.

“And freeze!”

Freeze-dancing teaches coordination and colors, Orlando said.

Playing together with the charter school’s kindergarten classes gives students at Cambridge Lakes Preschool a chance to get to know the kindergarten teachers before they move to the school on the same campus, she said. It shows them what the kindergartners are up to, she said.

And, the preschool teacher said, “Friday is a good day to get the kids moving a little bit.”

‘Forward-thinking’

Cambridge Lakes Charter School’s full-day kindergarten program was one of the more “forward-thinking” ideas in its original charter proposal, according to Tom Hay, assistant superintendent for instructional services — teaching and learning in Comichaelmmunity Unit School District 300.

That program, in which 138 students are enrolled, definitely has been a benefit to the western part of the Carpentersville-based school district, Hay said.

And the school, one of only three charter schools in the Chicago suburbs, definitely has been a benefit to the Pingree Grove community, according to Pingree Grove Village President Greg Marston.

The success of some charter schools, like Pingree Grove’s, is why Elgin is discussing the benefits of attracting a charter school to its school district as the Elgin City Council and city staff formulate a strategic plan to direct the city over the next five years.

“It’s a relatively modern concept: Could this be an option for (District) U46?” Elgin City Councilwoman Anna Moeller said.

For the rest of the story, read Chartering a new course for education in Elgin (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.