“What we are doing is not working. We need to provide a full portfolio of schools.”
-- Bibb Superintendent of Schools Romain Dallemand, March 2011
Those words were uttered right after a presentation that sought to deny approval of the Bibb system’s first public charter school. That effort failed -- not because the board voted the effort down -- but the proponents of the school couldn’t get its act together. Now they are back, Charles and Monya Rutland, with the Macon Charter Academy, and they are not alone. The Academy for Classical Education also had a petition before the board. Both were approved. We heard Dallemand’s words echoed by board member Lester Miller when he said, in reality, “What we are doing hasn’t been working.”
So what will two new charter schools bring to the Bibb County system? Too early to tell, but it will give parents a choice, and with that choice comes a responsibility to stay involved with their children’s education. Both charter schools are going to take a back-to-basics approach.
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The Academy for Classical Education, according to its website, will “Provide students a rigorous and structured intellectual foundation. An ACE student will be known for his/her ability to synthesize, analyze and critique information. They will be known for their ability to make thoughtful, well reasoned decisions and be able to defend their position, as well as the capacity to understand and assume their role in the community.”
The Macon Charter Academy will offer the same International Baccalaureate curriculum to middle school students where they would naturally matriculate to Central’s IB program. The IB program is offered in 146 countries and has been operating in Macon for two decades.
While there is a fear that these first approvals will open the floodgates for other charter applications, that’s unlikely. The process of creating, funding and attracting students to a new school is an arduous one few will attempt. Some charter schools will succeed where others fail. And the jury on the effectiveness of the schools is still out, but there will be choice. We would like to see an all-male or all-female charter school; maybe one that features foreign language and another that would offer STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum.
The school board has taken a big step. When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is realize you’re in a hole and stop digging.