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13 Proposed Charter Schools Submit Applications

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Nine of the proposed charter schools would be in Albuquerque

A school that separates boys and girls, another that teaches sports and entertainment marketing and one that aims to teach three languages and a nontraditional sport such as lacrosse are among 13 proposed charters.

Twelve applications were submitted to the state Public Education Department last week from would-be charter school founders. Eight of them would be in Albuquerque if approved.

A 13th proposal went to Albuquerque Public Schools, bringing the proposed Albuquerque charters to nine. Charters can seek authorization and oversight from either the state or the school district.

APS government liaison Joseph Escobedo said the startup costs of all these new charters could further strain the state’s public education budget. APS saw its state funding cut by $24 million this year as legislators struggled to balance the budget.

APS supports a statewide moratorium on new charter schools.

“During this fiscal crisis, how can we be adding more schools, especially some of these schools that are not any different than any other school in the system?” he said.

Escobedo said that despite this stance, APS will be fair in considering the application of Great Strides Academy, the lone school aiming to charter directly with APS. The lead founder of that school is Robert Baade, head of Robert F. Kennedy Charter High School.

Great Strides, which Escobedo said appears to be a “strong” applicant, would cater to at-risk students in grades K-8.

Since the state began chartering schools in 2008, fewer have been applying with APS.

Mark Tolley, APS Charter and Magnet School director, said charters are leaving APS because authorizing with the state is new and relatively unknown.

“The state has just started this, so it’s kind of the new thing in town,” Tolley said. He also said APS is “exacting and particular” with its charter schools, which might be a deterrent to some.

Other locations for proposed charters are in Belen, Española, Las Cruces and Gallup.

In the past, the Public Education Commission has usually approved about half the applications it receives, said Public Education Secretary-designate Susanna Murphy.

Although the charter school movement in New Mexico is a decade old, Murphy said the demand isn’t slowing.

“I think what we’re seeing is there’s a lot of people out in the public who have great ideas, and this process allows them to bring those ideas forward,” she said. “My take is, there’s a lot of wonderful leaders out there who really want to help public education.”

The number of applications not only shows community interest, but reflects national trends and support for charters, said Lisa Grover, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools.

Support for charter schools was a requirement in the federal Race to the Top grant contest, in which states competed for $4 billion.

“I think that has created more of a buzz around charter schools, and I think it’s sort of trickling down to the states,” Grover said.

The next step will come in August, when school districts and the state Public Education Department hold public meetings to hear comment on the proposed schools. Final decisions will be made in September.

 

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Proposed charters

  • Achieve Academy in Albuquerque: Grades 10-12, with a focus on career preparation for students with disabilities. It would partner with Adelante Development Center, one of the state’s leading employers of people with disabilities.
  • Aspen Grove Academy in Albuquerque: Grades K-6, eventually expanding to all grades, with a focus on giving students a democratic say in how their school is run.
  • Kids’ College Academy Charter in Albuquerque: Bilingual K-8, offering ESL and GED courses for parents.
  • New Mexico International School in Albuquerque: K-5, using International Baccalaureate program’s primary years curriculum. It would use a language immersion program to get students bilingual in Spanish and English, as well as conversant in Arabic. It would offer nontraditional sports like lacrosse, fencing and martial arts.
  • Sage Charter School in Albuquerque: K-8, eventually expanding to all grades, using a Montessori curriculum.
  • Sports and Entertainment Marketing Academy in Albuquerque: Students in grades 9-12, with a focus on business and marketing, specifically sports and entertainment. Two school-based businesses for students will sell food to each other, and students will become certified in tax preparation and certain business software.
  • The EDGE Academy in Albuquerque: Grades 6-12, divided into single-gender academies. Community service would be a strong component.
  • The GREAT Academy in Albuquerque: Grades 10-12, requiring students to take college classes.
  • Great Strides Academy in Albuquerque: K-8, with a focus on students who have had family disruptions or who are in foster care. The primary founder is Robert Baade, head of Robert F. Kennedy Charter High School.
  • Abbie Paiz Charter High School in Belen: Serving at-risk students in grades 9-12. Abbie Paiz, although best known as a University of New Mexico quarterback, was also a coach and teacher in Belen.
  • J. Paul Taylor Academy in Las Cruces: K-6, expanding to K-8. It would be heavily project-based and would require extensive family involvement. J. Paul Taylor is a former southern New Mexico educator and legislator.
  • Trinity High School in Española: Grades 10-12. Students would spend a day working in a job setting. Philosophy would be taught at all grade levels, with an emphasis on morals and ethics.
  • Uplift School of Expeditionary Learning in Gallup: K-8 students, with a focus on project-based learning and encouraging students to do original research.
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