Parents rally behind Gary school to save charter
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org | 648-3154 January 23, 2013 5:36PM
Carolyn Hatton, vice president of Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) and kitchen staff, (far right) has parents sign an attendance sheet for a meeting about Ball State University's announcement not to renew the charter sponsorship at Charter School of the Dunes in Gary, Ind. Wednesday January 23, 2013. From left are parent Lisa Foster, parent Mischelle Weis-Debragga and her son ninth-grader J.C. Debragga, 15, and Hatton. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Charter School of the Dunes, 860 N. Lake St.
LEAD College Preparatory Academy, 6070 Miller Ave.
West Gary Lighthouse Charter School, 725 Clark Road
Updated: February 25, 2013 12:44PM
GARY — Parents and supporters of the Charter School of the Dunes are starting a calling campaign appealing to Ball State University not to yank its charter.
The school held a meeting Wednesday to brief parents and teachers on Tuesday’s announcement by Ball State, which stated it would not renew the school’s charter. Unless it finds another sponsor, the school and two others in Gary could close by June 30.
Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools decided against renewing the charters of LEAD College Preparatory Academy, and West Gary Lighthouse Charter School withdrew its request for contract renewal and could also close by June 30.
If all three close, Gary would be left with five charters.
In a statement, Ball State officials said the decision was based on the schools’ poor academic performance.
Parents and teachers spoke passionately about their experience at Charter School of the Dunes, which is in the midst of constructing a new $13 million school in Miller on U.S. 20 and Old Hobart Road.
“This is a rose that’s growing from concrete,” said parent Anthony Jackson, of Gary, who has a son in kindergarten and a daughter in ninth grade. “Our first feeling here was one of family and familiarity. Here, they actually care.”
Jackson said his daughter became Student of the Month, almost immediately, recognition he said she never garnered in the Gary Community School Corp. in two years.
“My emotions are anger and disbelief. This school is gaining by leaps and bounds.”
The school earned a grade of F based on 2011-12 ISTEP-Plus scores in which 48 percent of students passed the math section of the exam and 54 percent passed the English portion. In 2010-11, the school earned a D grade.
Danielle Sleight, the mother of two children at the school and president of the Charter School of the Dunes School Board, said she has waiting lists for students to get in seven different grades. The school has an enrollment of about 460 students, she said.
“The letter from Ball State said it’s not in the best interests of students or the community for our school to remain open. Our parents were upset, they were outraged.”
Sleight said she’ll begin the appeal process this week. Ball State will hold a hearing before a three-person panel and render a decision within 20 days of the hearing.
Meanwhile, Sleight said they will explore the possibility of finding another sponsor. “We can’t stick our eggs in one basket. We need to pursue every possible avenue.”
Sleight said she spoke with the banks that are financing the new school’s construction and informed them of the possible loss of the charter. “They know what’s going on,” and construction of the energy-efficient school that will hold about 700 students is moving forward.
Students and teachers can watch can watch a live webcast of the construction in the current school’s lobby at 860 N. Lake St. Kindergarten teacher Sarah Briggs, of Michigan City, said she believes in the school, where she has taught for four years. Her three children also attend the school.
“I know all the hard work we do and I see where the kids come from and how far they go.”