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January 14, 2011

Charter School Choice

Joe Charlebois

What do parents want from their schools? They want their schools to provide the best possible education for their children to best prepare them for the next step in life.


Whether that choice of schools is the right kindergarten or college or university, parents want to put their child in the best possible situation to succeed. Let’s face it, the traditional school system is a cookie-cutter approach at its core and the differences are only in the individual teachers and leadership at each individual school.


In full disclosure, I am the parent of four school aged children in Frederick County Public Schools. However, none would benefit from any of the charter schools recently approved as they will have moved on through the system by then.


I favor the initiation of these public schools as a real option to current teaching methods and structure. In fact the Monocacy Valley Montessori School on Dill Avenue was the first in the state to provide this opportunity on a public school platform. By all accounts it has been extremely successful.


The previous Frederick County Board of Education, in September of 2010, approved another charter school – the Carroll Creek Montessori Charter School. There were concerns; but after debate and a conference with legal advisors the board unanimously voted in favor of approval. Two months later the Board faced with similar concerns rejected the application for the Frederick Classical Charter School in a 5 to 0 vote. The reasons the board gave may have had some merit, but they were the same concerns addressed on the previous vote.


The current invitation by the new board to meet with administrators of the Frederick Classical Charter School has drawn out misleading statements that are politically motivated and not based on the merits of the application.


The greatest reason given is that we can’t pay for it. If funding was truly an issue, then why was the previous request granted in September. Instead of denying the previous request, the board voted unanimously – 6 to 0 – to approve the application.


The State of Maryland has precedence that the county Boards of Education cannot deny a request on financial grounds.


Angie Fish, one of the board members who voted in favor of the Carroll Creek Montessori application, voted against the Frederick Classical Charter School even though she held the same concerns regarding the financial burden each facility would place on the county.


The curriculum set forth by the new applicant is vastly different from what is currently offered in the current public school system. It is truly an alternative to the status quo. It is a return to a classical liberal arts type of education. One argument is that it is too similar to current teaching methods, but if you look into the style and method you will see the philosophy is entirely different.


With the addition of the two new schools – if Frederick Classical Charter School is approved along with the current Monocacy Valley Montessori School – nearly a thousand students in Frederick County would be enrolled in charter public schools in grades Kindergarten through the eight. That is real opportunity and real choice.


The intent of these schools is to offer alternatives to a population of public school students that could benefit from different teaching methods. As is obvious the demand is fantastic and in great need.


Parents just want the best possible education for their children. Charter schools – including Frederick Classical – should be part of that mix Politics or misleading information shouldn’t.



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