Can charter schools save jobs, increase enrollment, create thinkers?

Loomis School district pitches charter schools to community
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Charter schools can save teacher jobs, increase enrollment and create thinkers, according to the Loomis Union School District. But some teachers said the two, new charter schools proposed to open next year will destroy their union’s bargaining unit. They said they see charters as a district ploy to undermine teacher’s rights. The district is proposing new charter schools as a way to deliver the International Baccalaureate program, which district superintendent Paul Johnson called “the best academic program in the world” and said it offered “the ultimate in staff empowerment.” A k-8 program at Loomis Grammar School and a middle years program for grades 6-8 at Franklin Elementary School have been proposed. “The kids are more interested. They’re consistently engaged and involved,” said Loomis Grammar School principal Rick Judd about the International Baccalaureate program that would be implemented at the new charter schools. “LUDS (Loomis Union School District) is taking advantage of tough times to deny teachers their contracted rights,” wrote Franklin teacher Robin Parmley, in a letter she distributed to parents at the school. While some teachers support the International Baccalaureate program, some dislike that charter school teachers would not be a part of their union. A number of informational meetings have been held with parents to gage interest and answer questions. Five Franklin School teachers have agreed to teach at the new charter middle school if it is approved by the school board. The educators recently spoke at a parent forum at the school and shared their excitement about the program. “We’ve been teaching skills instead of teaching students how to think,” said Franklin teacher Cinnamon Johnsrud, who plans to teach at the charter school. “We want students to become full learners, inquirers. We want to have students be risk takers and take challenge head-on, not feel defeated when they come across a problem,” said Franklin teacher Jeremy Shrieve, who also agreed to teach at the charter. They said the program would allow teachers to create their own lesson plans and have a block of time for teacher collaboration each day. Parmley’s letter to parents stated, “Many of us are very interested and enthusiastic about … an IB program here.” She also wrote that they don’t oppose charters as long as teachers have the right to be in the union. During the parent meeting, Franklin principal Shawn Shaw addressed the question of why the district did not want union membership at the charters. He stated that it is difficult to implement new programs when the district must deal with unions. He also said that Franklin’s kindergarten teachers volunteered to run an optional full day of kindergarten without additional pay and the union denied the teachers’ request. Paul Johnson, district superintendent, said charter schools bring in additional revenue from the state, and draw new students to the district, which has declining enrollment. He said the new schools would receive start-up grants and could receive construction funds in the future. He said charters would provide teaching jobs, the school day would be one hour longer, and a foreign language would be offered. Other nearby school districts have also wrestled with issues of declining enrollment and reduced revenue by closing schools. Alta Vista School, in Auburn, closed at the end of the 2007-2008 school year and Eureka Elementary School, in Granite Bay, will close at the end of the current school year. “Our school district is trying to be proactive and improve the education for the students. It’s all about what’s best for the kids,” principal Judd said.