School District To Vote on Plan For New Public Charter School

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A Berkeley non-profit organization is considering plans to start the city's first public charter high school for students with academic and social challenges.

The charter school, Revolutionary Education and Learning Movement, could open in fall 2010 with 260 ninth through 11th grade students from South and West Berkeley.

A proposal for implementing the charter school will go before the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education for a vote as soon as mid-August.

The charter school would be an alternative to Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy, a continuation high school for students with academic and behavioral difficulties, said academy Principal Victor Diaz.

"As an educational institution, we want to create people who are committed to think about how the world works with 21st century skills," said Diaz, a founding director of the charter school. "We're creating better people, better humanity."

He said the school's teaching staff would use project-based learning to engage students in their academic material.

"(Project-based learning) is widely believed to be a powerful teaching strategy that promotes self-directed learning," according to an executive summary of the charter school.

Despite statewide budget cuts to education, Diaz said the charter school would be financially solvent.

The funding for the charter school will come from the state, but Diaz said he also expects it to be supported by private and foundation money.

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, said the district needs more programs that cater to students who have different academic and behavioral needs.

"On a very large campus, students don't have their own space," she said.

Students whose needs cannot be met at Berkeley High School often are discouraged from attending Berkeley Technology Academy because of the school's negative reputation, Diaz said.

"Many ... (believe) students that go to continuation school are not going to be productive members of society," he said.

Campbell said students who are discouraged from attending Berkeley Technology Academy need an alternative.

"There's a certain stigma attached to B-Tech," she said. "It's difficult to remove that stigma without creating a whole new program."

Board of Education member John Selawsky said although an alternative program is needed, it does not necessarily have to come in the form of a charter high school.

"We need to have alternative programs starting at the middle school level," Selawsky said. "That's where all the acute problems arise, where peer pressure and peer culture really come in."


Contact Paul Edison at [email protected]

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