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Wahtonka school seeks charter

Wahtonka Community School is venturing into the uncharted waters of becoming a charter school.

Principal Brian Goodwin is unabashed about why: He wants to give the alternative school the budget protection offered by charter school status.

The process has been underway for a nwhile, and the school recently got a $100,000 state grant to help with the application process. Goodwin said part of the money will help pay for staff time to help “translate,” as he puts it, the “radically different” project-based instructional methods and objectives at the school into more standard curriculum goals, to demonstrate how they meet state standards.

“There’s a pretty healthy amount of stuff that we need to address,” he said. The money will also be used to pay for attorneys, accountants, staff training and travel.

A charter school would be a stand-alone school that would get 95 percent of the funding that traditional high schools get.

Charter schools teaching lower grades get 80 percent of what their traditional public school counterparts get, but Goodwin said high schools get more money because instruction is more expensive at the high school level.

He said in lean budget times, alternative schools that are included in the overall budget of a school district may get the axe, since they lack the social capital of other programs like sports and AP classes.

He has enjoyed consistent support of district administration, but wants assurances that the alternative school can survive staff changes in administration.

“For me, having invested my career into this thing, like jumping head first into this school, I want to make sure it’s protected and stable for the long haul,” Goodwin said.

The best way to do that is to form a charter school, he said, because then the school is guaranteed state formula funding.

Traditional schools are funded on what’s called an average daily membership, which is a measure of the student population.

“I think what we have is special and this makes sure it’s there forever and ever,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin estimated the application will be completed by the end of July.

He filed an application earlier, but it was sent back with areas that needed more work. He said the state grant to help with the application, in an ironic twist, is not available until the application is already made.

He has to apply to the school district, but the district asked the Oregon School Board Association to score the application.

Charter schools are public, semi-autonomous schools operated by parents, teachers and/or community members. The school operates under a “charter” or contract with the local school board.

He has already filed for non-profit status and has formed a non-profit board, which has met several times. Board members are: Aaron Bowman, Rebecca Anderson, Dr. Analene Pentopolous, and Carrie Pippinich. There is one vacancy on the board.


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