Leader Blues

Friday, August 01, 2008

TOP STORY > >Advisers hired for charter schools

Leader staff writer

Two educational consultants have partnered in an effort to bring a charter school to Jacksonville. Their effort is one of two underway to win approval from the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) to establish an open-enrollment charter school in fall 2009.

Dave Sanders of Maumelle and Buster Lackey of Sherwood have filed a letter of intent with the ADE about their plan to found Jacksonville Charter Academy. The two are experienced charter school teachers and administrators who “saw a need for a school in Jacksonville to give parents and students a choice,” Sanders said.

The other effort is led by a group of Jackson-ville residents who have aligned with Lighthouse Academies, a Massachusetts-based charter school management organization.

A charter school is a state-regulated public school that aims to provide educational alternatives to communities. State law restricts the number of charter schools that may operate in Arkansas. An open-enrollment charter school may accept students that live outside the district in which the school is located.

Therefore, students from outside Jacksonville and the Pulaski County Special School District could attend either proposed charter school.

Sanders and Lackey have hired an architect to study several existing buildings as a possible site for the school. One is the former Wal-Mart building on North First Street and the other is behind Gwatney Chevrolet, Sanders said.

“We want the school to be located in the heart of Jacksonville, with easy access to the air base and to and from the community,” Sanders said. “We want it to be in the center of the community.”

The school would initially serve about 350 students, kindergarten through grade 6, with two grades added each year following.

The curriculum would be rigorous and geared to prepare students for success in college.

“The school theme would be ‘I Can’ – that whatever I put my mind to, I can do, to give children the experience, education, and stability to do whatever in life they want to do,” Sanders said.

The long-range plan for the high school would include affiliation with a university in order that students would have the opportunity to take college courses at no cost and earn up to two years of college credit before high school graduation.

“They would enter college as a junior at no charge whatsoever, with a real college transcript – instantaneously,” Sanders said.

The two men have yet to go public with their plan, although “a couple of business owners are most definitely on board,” Sanders said.

A series of community meetings will commence with one this Sunday with a presentation by Sanders and Lackey during the morning service at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Jacksonville.