July 22, 1999
KALAMAZOO -- Starting Aug. 1, the Western Michigan University College of Education will begin accepting applications for new and innovative ideas for public school academies, more commonly known as charter schools.
Applications will be available in the college dean's office along with information that will identify the type of school that will be considered and the University's conditions for chartering.
The University is looking for charter school proposals that offer something new that isn't currently being offered in existing public schools and will work together with public schools to provide that service.
"The whole idea is not to erode support for public schools," says President Elson S. Floyd. "Through partnerships, cooperation and collaboration we would like to redefine and shape the character of charter schools in this state."
Dr. Frank Rapley, dean of the College of Education, says a recent study of the state's charter schools by the WMU Evaluation Center, identified four categories of charter schools: converted public schools, converted private schools, smaller "mom and pop" schools, and franchise or management company schools.
"We're none of those," Rapley says. "We're trying to authorize a different category of charter schools than currently exists in the state.
"The kind of schools we want to charter will form a partnership with public schools and try to provide an innovation or a service that currently is not provided and give additional choices to students in the public schools."
For example, schools could experiment with a longer school year or different hours of operation, Rapley says. They also could integrate the school with health services or day care before and after school.
The University went ahead with plans to begin chartering schools after the WMU Board of Trustees passed a resolution on Dec. 11 exercising the University's right to become an authorizing body for public school academies. Trustees will later approve charter proposals recommended by the President.
The University's approach to chartering was detailed in a position statement drafted last year by College of Education faculty working with area public school superintendents. Superintendents included Kay Royster, Kalamazoo Public Schools; James Rikkers, Portage Public Schools; Michael Bitar, Battle Creek Public Schools; Pat Newby, Grand Rapids Public Schools; Robert Spencer, Battle Creek Lakeview Public Schools; and Al Hawkins, Covert Public Schools.
Basic tenets in the statement stipulate that chartering initiatives must result in improved learning and achievement for all students and supplement and complement public school efforts while not duplicating programs. Charters will be granted on a competitive basis to those proposals that best meet that intent.
Rapley says the first charter will probably be granted later this year, allowing the school to begin operating next year.
For more information or to obtain an application, call the College of Education dean's office at (616) 387-2960.
Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of University Relations
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