Parents Look to Open New Charter School

A group of residents wants to give parents another alternative when enrolling their children in school.

and Schools are charter schools in Redwood City that have received national attention for its success in breaking the traditional education mold. Now at the K-8 level, a group of residents are looking to do the same by Fall 2013.

For the past 18 months, parent Burgess Peck and others have built the framework for Connect Community Charter School, pending the ’s approval of their petition on May 15.

“It is only with a charter that we can have autonomy with the curriculum, as opposed to the current direct explicit instruction of Houghton Mifflin,” said Peck.

The parents stressed the need for providing options and a variety of types of education.

“We’re not trying to bash the current school system,” said parent Whitney Wood. “We’re just excited about an alternative to a more standardized curriculum.”

Not a single traditional Houghton Mifflin textbook would exist in the classrooms. The schedules would vary drastically, using a block system that gives teachers longer periods to engage their students and more deeply understand concepts. The 25-student classrooms would also have mixed grades to allow students to teach and learn from each other.

The curriculum would be based on social and emotional teaching and inquiry-based. Wood said that researching showed this resulted in increased engagement, higher test scores, better classroom behavior, and reduced risk taking at home. 

“The most common way to get that is to go to a private school, which is fantastic for those who can afford it,” Wood said. “But we want this opportunity for everyone and the public to access it.”

The Synapse School in Menlo Park and the Nueva School in Hillsborough shared their curricula with the Community Connect Charter School founders a model. Yet Wood insisted that teachers would be highly involved in developing and adjusting the curriculum as needed.

“This is certainly not a cookie-cutter curriculum,” Wood said. “It’ll be much more flexible for teachers.”

But the curriculum will also follow all state standards, including special education resources and “structured immersion” for those learning English.  

The charter school would be based on a lottery system, inviting every child in the community to apply to the school. Parents specifically wanted diversity in socioeconomic status and diversity that reflected the community.

“The interest is incredible,” Wood said. “There have been a lot of responses to our very extensive mailing list.”

An information night is taking place on May 1 at the Redwood City Downtown Library at 7 p.m. for interested parents and students.


Fitting into the Existing District

The parents have had a few meetings with the district that have gone well, according to Wood.

Superintendent Jan Christensen said she would support another charter school in the district provided it can sustain itself financially and meets the criteria established by the state and the school board.  

“If a new charter school is fiscally sound and meets all the criteria then we would work collaboratively with them to assist them in being successful,” she wrote in an email to Patch.

Garfield Elementary School was initially a charter school before joining the district, she noted.

Should the district not approve the petition, the parents can appeal to the county, then to the state.

“The state has traditionally been supportive of charter schools so we’re optimistic about it,” Wood said.

The state funds all charter schools based on a per pupil number. However, Wood acknowledged an operating shortfall that is typical of starting any new venture. She said they have been fundraising and raised an undisclosed amount.

Though they do not have a specific location in mind, Prop 39, passed in 2000, states that all schools districts must provide equal facilities to charter schools as to traditional schools.

The school plans to enroll K-2 and 6-7 graders initially with six teachers, Wood said. Three teachers have already verbally committed to joining the charter school.

To the email list, Peck wrote, “Let's change some education paradigms together!”

For more information, visit www.ConnectRWC.org.

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Sharon Levin April 20, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I wish them the best of luck. I am so not a fan of Houghton Mifflin and the virtual handcuffs that I have seen tighten on some of the most wonderful teachers in this district. Thank goodness for proactive parents.
Jack Hickey April 20, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Will this be a non-union charter school?
John Foley April 25, 2012 at 07:24 AM
Sincere good luck to the charter school supporters! Anything will be better than the current RCSD "choices". Be very cautious of snakes whose smiles may hold deadly surprises for your good efforts.
Nancy Bloomquist April 27, 2012 at 01:35 AM
RCSD stands for Redwood City School District, the elementary school district, which I believe authorizes charter schools even if they are high schools. RCSD is an elementary school district not part of the Sequoia High School District. It all seems so complicated.


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