Friday, June 08, 2007

Educational Endeavors

Here is the article from the Marshall Independent about the charter school in Hendricks that Christin and I are working to develop.
Interim board aiming to apply for Hendricks area charter school this summer

By Deb Gau

HENDRICKS, MN — The idea had been taking shape for several months, but now proponents of a charter school in the Hendricks area are down to some of the real work.

“July 6 is the application deadline for the 2008-2009 school year,” Christin Berger said at a meeting Thursday night. If the charter application is turned in on time, she said, “we would have an answer from the state by October.”

The idea of a charter school in Hendricks first started to get attention when Hendricks resident John Thomsen organized public meetings on the subject last year. Area community members like Berger took the idea and began working toward it, meeting with representatives from E.C.H.O. Charter School and EdVisions Inc., a cooperative organization that helps establish charter schools.

The six members of the charter school Interim Board of Directors have officially worked together for about a month and a half, said board member Christin Berger. Their mission — to create a mission and goals for a new school in time for the July 6 charter application deadline.

“The mission statement should be where, why and how in two or three sentences,” Todd Berger reminded the board. “And our vision statement is how we plan to achieve that.”

After a few minutes of brainstorming, Berger came up with an acronym, RIDGE, outlining the group’s key points.

“It’s rigorous, individualized learning that develops relationships in a goal-driven environment with innovative education,” Berger said. “Those could be our talking points, then.”

The board also hopes the charter school can have special emphasis to study subjects like nursing, alternative energy and agribusiness.

The interim board members are residents of Hendricks, Lake Benton and Astoria, S.D. They include former educators and parents of home-schooled children. But what they have in common is a desire for different educational options in their area.

“One thing you want to have (in education) is a love of learning. A lot of kids have lost that by the time they get to high school,” said board member Bob Neff. “A lot of students will go out of state or even homeschool” due to frustrations with traditional classrooms, he said.

Charter schools can help avoid that problem by letting students pursue their own interests, while doing projects involving multiple disciplines.

“If your goal is to be, say, an electrician, you’re going to be more engaged if you’re doing things that will help you reach that goal,” Christin Berger said.

A lot of the specifics of a new school aren’t planned out yet, Christin Berger said, including the number of students it serves. Berger said the board would ideally like to have about 15 students per teacher, drawn from a 50-mile radius around the school.

Based on some of her own education experiences, board member Mitzi Trooien said she thought the 15 student estimate would help teachers give more individual time to students.

“You get to the point where there are so many kids, you lose that individualized education,” Trooien said. “Fifteen kids is so good, it’s small enough that you can see what everyone is doing.”

The board also lacks a sponsor organization to partner with, Christin Berger said, although they are looking for one. Without a sponsor, the charter school can’t become a reality.

One thing board members don’t want is to be called an “alternative.” Charter schools are public schools, they said, only with different teaching methods.

“It’s a public school. It’s just not traditional,” Christin Berger said. “We can more effectively meet the needs of students who wouldn’t do so well in a traditional class.”

The charter school is also not meant to replace public high schools in Lincoln County, board members said.

“We basically hope to strengthen education in the area, not weaken it,” Christin Berger said. “We’re another option, and options are good.”

The interim board meets on Thursday nights in Hendricks. Community members who have questions or are interested in getting involved can contact any of the board members or e-mail

Keep your eye on us... Great things will happen!
And write to your state representatives to urge them not to cap the number of charter schools in Minnesota. Charter schools are the best thing we have going in the state!