The lack of public comment and board discussion at a hearing for
the proposed Gilroy Prep School left the charter school’s founders
feeling slightly taken aback, but board members said they plan to
thoroughly discuss the future of the school at an upcoming study
The lack of public comment and board discussion at a hearing for the proposed Gilroy Prep School left the charter school’s founders feeling slightly taken aback, but board members said they plan to thoroughly discuss the future of the school at an upcoming study session.
The public hearing for GPS, a charter school slated to open in August 2011 pending board approval, lasted only a few minutes at Thursday night’s school board meeting. Aside from a few introductory comments by Superintendent Deborah Flores and GPS founders James Dent and Sharon Waller, no one uttered a word.
“I thought the board would have asked us questions,” Waller said after the hearing.
However, board members said they expect a lively discussion with each other and the charter school’s founders at a study session scheduled for Oct. 28. They have also submitted a number of questions via e-mail to the school’s founders, Waller said.
Though many of their questions center around whether the charter will be able to support itself financially, trustees said they are confident that the school’s academic model is sound.
“If I had to vote today, I would vote yes,” said trustee Francisco Dominguez. “I’m for it. No doubt about it.”
Gilroy Prep School will use a model similar to the one in place at Eliot Elementary School, where Dent is currently principal. Using a method known as “Whole Brain Teaching,” which aims to engage children 100 percent of the time, Eliot has seen unprecedented academic success in recent years.
“I think it will be a good thing for our community,” Dominguez said. “It’s another opportunity to give parents choices.”
Board members want to see GPS succeed, said trustee Jaime Rosso.
“I don’t think there’s any opposition to it per se from any of the board members,” he said. “At least not that I’ve heard. I think we’re more just interested in making sure that it is successful, that it’s properly supported and thought out so that we don’t have the kinds of things that came about with the last charter school.”
With subpar academics and failing financials, El Portal Leadership Academy, a charter school that was run on the east side of town by the Mexican American Community Service Agency, closed last year. Trustees said they want to avoid that situation with the new charter school.
With an academic model similar to the one at Eliot, the charter school’s vision to promote academic excellence mirrors that of the district, Rosso said.
“If anybody can do it, they can do it,” he said. “Particularly James Dent. We know what he can do even within the system.”
In fact, opening a new charter school could put the pressure on district schools to produce results, trustees have said.
“If we have a high-caliber charter school, it forces the district to be better,” said trustee Mark Good.
In an effort to ensure its success, trustees and district staff are plowing through the 100-pager charter petition with a fine-toothed comb. Though Flores will voice her own concerns, which mainly pertain to the school’s finances, at the study session, she may not make an official recommendation to the board.
“This is really a board decision,” she said.