Two new charter schools get OK from Collier board

Video from NBC-2

Collier County School Board members on Tuesday signed off on two charter schools that propose vastly different educational approaches — one that would blend online and face-to-face instruction and another that would employ classical teaching methods.

"I personally think it's very important that we have different types of opportunities for parents and for students in our district," School Board Chairman Roy Terry said. "These two schools, I think, offer that."

The board's votes to approve applications from iGeneration Empowerment Academy of Naples and Mason Classical Academy were unanimous and follow the recommendation of the superintendent and a review committee. Applications from two other schools — My Choice Collegiate Academy and My Choice Accelerated Academy at Collier — were denied because they did not meet state requirements, according to the review committee.

The approved schools must next negotiate contracts with the school board.

Charter schools are public schools operated by private groups. They are tuition-free and funded through tax dollars. By law, they must offer instruction or educate students differently than traditional schools.

iGeneration Empowerment Academy's approach calls for having students complete courses online but at a school site and with teacher supervision. Mason Classical Academy, based on a model used at a charter school in Hillsdale, Mich., would emphasize civics, require students to memorize literary works, teach Latin and give out A's not for effort but subject mastery.

Erika Donalds, who has two children in Collier County schools, told board members she was excited at the possibility of having Mason Classical Academy as an option.

"I find myself supplementing the public school education with what I feel my focus would be and it really lines up with what this classical academy would offer," she said.

Mason Classical Academy founder Kelly Lichter said she has received more than 150 letters of support and 50 letters of intent from parents who want to enroll their students at the school. She said Mason Classical Academy is the kind of school she'd like to have for her children.

During a brief discussion about the applications, board members asked about the student selection process — specifically, how the schools choose students if they reach capacity. Nicole Hughes, the district's director of competitive grants and charter schools, said most schools use either a first-come first-serve policy or a lottery system.

Some board members expressed disappointment with a Daily News column penned by Lichter, in which she wrote that the progressive educational model being used by public schools is failing students.

"I think our teachers and administrators and staff do an excellent job and I don't think we should forget that," Terry said.

The two approved schools join the district's three approved charter schools and four that are eligible to open next year.

Grant application approved

The board approved the district's application for a $40 million grant through the federal Race to the Top program.

The grant would be used to support the newly-approved College and Career Pathways Plan, which aims to help students find a career path. Before submitting the proposal, which is due Oct. 31, district staff plan to present it to community members.

The district will find out in December if it won the funding.

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