The Charlottesville Daily Progress
Published: May 26, 2008

Albemarle County schools and Virginia’s fourth public charter school should make a good partnership, benefiting students and the county’s educational goals.

Sandy Richardson and Bobbi Snow had tried to persuade Charlottesville to approve the Community Public Charter School, for children who need a non-traditional educational environment in which to thrive.

Those efforts hit a wall.

Ms. Snow graciously attributed the city School Board’s unwelcoming reaction to unusual factors, including a turnover of board members and a controversy regarding the school superintendent that consumed the board’s attention.

Last year, however, Albemarle County approved the school. Albemarle already hosts one of the state’s other public charters — Murray High School, also designed for students who need a non-traditional approach.

The new school, which will open with a sixth-grade class, will share space in Burley Middle School for its first year, and will share some staff as well.

Community Charter will reach middle-schoolers. It will open this fall with a sixth-grade class and then expand to seventh and eighth grades.

Don Vale, head of the county school division’s instruction department, said the county’s and the school’s goals are complementary.

The charter school will help the county school system advance two of its goals: serving all students and closing the “achievement gap.”

The school’s co-founders are to be commended for their perseverance.

They began brainstorming about the need for an alternative public middle school when they both worked at Tandem Friends School. In 2005, their initial efforts paid off when they won a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Depart-ment of Education.

After that, however, they hit a roadblock when their first attempt to set up the school failed in Charlottesville.

With experience already in working with a public charter, Albemarle was more amenable.

A public charter school can easily be a win-win endeavor. A charter school, with its smaller size and specialized approach, can fill a niche that traditional public schools cannot. But a public charter school can be asked to serve the goals of the larger, local system more specifically and directly than a private school.

That arrangement has worked well with Murray; it should work equally well for Community.

Congratulations to Virginia’s fourth — and Albemarle County’s second — public charter school.


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