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Reprieve sweet, Gary’s Charter School of the Dunes lands new sponsor

Updated: May 1, 2013 2:37PM



GARY — On the brink of losing its charter, the Charter School of the Dunes has found new life and a new sponsor in the Calumet College of St. Joseph in Hammond.

Teachers, staff and students at the Miller charter school rejoiced at the news on Thursday, as teachers wore red Calumet College T-shirts in celebration.

“We’re incredibly excited, but I can’t go into details right now,” said Danielle Sleight, president of the school board.

The college announced in a news release Thursday that it would begin sponsoring the Charter School of the Dunes on July 1.

That’s when its contract with the Ball State Office of Charter Schools expires. Ball State announced in January it wouldn’t renew the 10-year-old school’s contract because of poor academic performance. It gave the same news to six other charters, including LEAD College Preparatory Academy, also in Miller.

The news stunned Charter School of the Dunes officials who are in the midst of constructing a new $13 million school in Miller on U.S. 20 and Old Hobart Road.

In a statement, Daniel Lowery, president of Calumet College of St. Joseph, said: “It is a blessing when one of our institution’s true strengths can be mobilized to meet a community need.

“Our Education Program has long focused on the preparation of teachers to serve in the urban community. We share a common mission with the Charter School of the Dunes and have been impressed with the school’s efforts on behalf of students drawn from the City of Gary and elsewhere.”

Lowery said the Charter School of the Dunes’ focus on environmental responsibility dovetails with Calumet College of St. Joseph’s new “Restoration Ecology” program.

The sponsorship also opens dual credit opportunities for the charter school’s high school students and experiential learning opportunities for students of both the charter school and the college.

“This partnership will revolutionize the way schools partner with their authorizer,” said Sleight.

The new sponsor means Charter School of the Dunes won’t need to make its April 24 appeal to Ball State, Sleight said.

LEAD Preparatory Academy has an April 3 appeal date in Muncie.

Charter School of the Dunes had a 41.6 percent passing score on recent ISTEP Plus results, compared to 45.5 percent in the Gary Community School Corp.

In its renewal application, Charter School of the Dunes said it serves a transient population and “an overwhelming” number of those new students were at least a grade level behind when they enrolled.

Follow Carole Carlson on Twitter @ccwriterPT.



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