Our Chatter about Charters Lunch & Learn, the first to use the Betty Rodriguez Library as a meeting place, yielded almost a full house of members and guests to hear three panelists supportive of the charter movement. LWVF’s Education Committee has been studying and visiting charter schools locally as this topic is a League priority for the year.
Jeff Sands, Managing Regional Director for the California Charter Schools Association, noted that over three million students, about 6% of the nation’s total, are being educated in charter schools. Locally over 6,000 students are in charters, with 1,400 on a waiting list, while 150,000 are on wait lists throughout the state. He explained that charter schools are public schools for which the state has waived many of the voluminous Education Code rules to give freedom and flexibility to educators, to empower professionals, to provide parents with choices, to create competition with regular public schools, and to increase learning opportunities for low achieving students through innovative teaching methods.
Diego Arambula, an LWVF member who is the executive director of a new local education advocacy group called GO Fresno Public Schools, noted that the role of charters is to find models that are successful and spread them around. Among these are personalized learning with teachers as mentors and dual immersion (English/foreign language) programs. As a parent of two charter school children he has seen the engagement of the school’s teachers and the success of the restructuring of the school day.
Jeannne Pentorali, executive director of the Dailey Public School, spoke about the school’s Primary International Baccalaureate Program which focuses on interdisciplinary studies and active learning. After three years the school was officially authorized as an IB provider and has been named a California Gold Ribbon School. It has an extended day from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Innovation and high expectations are the hallmark of Dailey with strong state testing scores by its students. Neighborhood children are 58% of the demographic. Some concerns that are being addressed are reaching out to secure a more diverse population and teacher turnover.