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12 groups lay out proposals for 16 schools

Letters to state first step for diverse charter hopes by Cynthia Howell | July 4, 2012 at 4:34 a.m.

— A dozen organizations are making plans to establish 16 new independently run, open-enrollment charter schools beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

The organizations sent letters of intent to apply for the charters, which are agreements necessary to operate, to the Arkansas Department of Education by this week’s deadline.

The one-page letters of intent are precursors to the full applications for charters due Aug. 31. The applications for what would be publicly funded schools are subject to approval by the Arkansas Board of Education.

Scott Smith, executive director of the nonprofit Arkansas Public School Resource Center, which provides assistance to charter schools and rural schools, said Tuesday that the charter-school planners are offering a wide range of educational programs, including classical liberal arts, health sciences, and an emphasis on math and science.

Others are focusing on serving communities where there are large numbers of students at risk of failing school or where schools have underperformed academically.

“It’s certainly not just the traditional educational delivery model that we are seeing this year,” Smith said of the preliminary charter-school plans.

Six of the 12 organizations are proposing charter schools in Little Rock despite the Little Rock School District’s pending federal-court challenge to the state Board of Education’s approval of charter schools in Pulaski County. The court challenge, if successful, could result in limits to charterschool growth and financial remuneration to the school district.

In addition to the six schools planned for Little Rock, others are proposed for Bentonville, Fort Smith, West Memphis, Pine Bluff, Jonesboro, Lincoln, Osceola, Lake View in Phillips County, and Boone and Marion counties.

Several applicants for the schools are either current charter-school operators in Arkansas or previous applicants for charter schools that were not initially approved.

Lighthouse Academies, a national organization now operating charter schools in Jacksonville and Pine Bluff, is planning a Little Rock campus, according to its letter of intent.

Responsive Education Solutions — which operates more than 50 charter schools, primarily in Texas, but was unsuccessful in obtaining a charter for a high school in Texarkana last November — is seeking charters for two schools in Little Rock, one in Bentonville and one in Pine Bluff.

Sally Wilson, who spearheaded a charter school in Osceola that was later closed, has submitted a letter of intent for a new charter in that city.

Caroline Proctor, who initially headed Academics Plus Charter School in Maumelle and led the formation of the eStem Charter Schools in Little Rock, has submitted letters of intent for schools in Marion and/or Boone counties.

Frank Holman, the justretired superintendent of Northwest Arkansas’ Lincoln School District that was home to a school-district-run charter school, is now proposing an open-enrollment charter school in the same area.

“It would be blended [classroom] and virtual learning,” Holman said Tuesday of what will be known as “America’s Charter School” if approved by the state. “We looked at how we can serve students who just don’t fit in the traditional school environment. I think it can be a winwin for school districts and for a virtual charter.”

Here is a rundown of the charter planners and their 16 proposed schools.

Responsive Education Solutions, Lewisville, Texas:

Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy in Bentonville that would initially serve as many as 445 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade and add a grade a year until the school serves as many as 685 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Premier High School in Little Rock for grades nine through 12 with a maximum enrollment of 240 students.

Quest Middle School in Little Rock that would initially serve grades five through eight and grow to a total 460 students in fifth through 12th grades.

Quest Middle School of Pine Bluff that would start with an enrollment cap of 220 in grades five through eight and grow to 460 in fifth through 12th grades.

The Rural Arkansas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Initiative Inc., whose contact is longtime charter school advocate Proctor:

North Arkansas Science and Math Charter School for up to 650 students in ninth through 12th grades in either Boone County or Marion County. The school would be modeled on Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville.

North Arkansas Science and Math Charter School, for kindergarten through eighth grade, in Boone County or Marion County. The school would use the original eStem Public Charter School design that incorporates economics into the study of math, science, engineering and technology.

Other organizations:

Noble Education Initiative of Fort Smith for the Noble Academy of Impact and Entrepreneurship in Fort Smith that would enroll as many as 450 in kindergarten through 12th grade. John Doak is the contact for the organization.

Academic Leadership Group Inc., for the Academic Leadership Academy School of Health Sciences for Young Men, which would serve up to 696 pupils through the eighth grade at 1167 S. Hughes St. in Little Rock. Michael McCray is the contact for the proposed school.

The Dr. Frank Holman Corp. of Lincoln for the America’s Charter School that would provide a “high-tech, projectbased learning environment” to as many as 500 students in grades eight through 12.

OCBA Inc. of Osceola for the Diploma Technical School that would serve the equivalent of 300 full-time students ages 18 to 21 who are in grades nine through 12 and not on track to graduate. Classes would convene 4-10:30 p.m. for six-week, half-credit semester courses, according to the organization’s contact, Sally Wilson.

KidsSmart Educational Services for a 200-pupil elementary school at 3425 Base Line Road in Little Rock. Academic content would be taught in English and Spanish. Tiffany Pettus is the contact for the program that was unsuccessful in getting state approval last year.

Life Skills Center Inc. for the Life Skills Charter School for an elementary school enrolling up to 100 children with autism and other disabilities. A location for the school isn’t specified but the contact, Marie Ray, lists a Jonesboro address.

Lighthouse Academies Little Rock Arkansas Inc. for the Capitol City Lighthouse Charter School that would serve up to 388 elementary pupils initially and grow to 788 students in kindergarten through 12th grades within five years. The contact is Phillis Nichols-Anderson, vice president, Southern Region of Lighthouse Academies, which operates 19 charter schools in five states.

Exalt Education Inc. that would open the Exalt Academy of Southwest Little Rock for 540 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grades. Benjamin Lindquist is the founder and chief executive officer of the corporation. Lindquist also is director of the Little Rock Preparatory Academy in central Little Rock.

The Civil Rights Advocacy Association for the Independent African American Religious Educational System that would serve up to 200 elementary and high school students in the old Lake View High School building in Phillips County. Contacts are Mauricelm-Lei Millere and Darla Nicole Gist.

Silver Dance Academy and Performing Arts Center for the West Memphis Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics Academy for up to 400 students in grades nine through 12. Valeria Bostick of Memphis is listed as the contact.

Arkansas, Pages 11 on 07/04/2012

Print Headline: 12 groups lay out proposals for 16 schools

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