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City school board approves three new charters

The Baltimore City school board approved three new charter schools to open beginning in 2014, including two schools that will be subject to heightened scrutiny throughout their contracts.

The Lillie May Carroll Jackson School, which will be operated by a nonprofit organization created by Roland Park Country School and educate girls in grades 5-8, won a smooth approval to open in 2014.

But the Green Street Academy, which has been operating as a "transformation" school with an environmental theme for the past three years, "stretched certain standards," city schools CEO Andrés Alonso said in recommending to grant the school charter status.

The recommendation — the school is deemed successful and hosts the 2013 Teacher of the Year, but its delay in filing of paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service for several years caused board members to question its administrative practices — caused discomfort and extensive debate among board members.

"I don't see conditional approval as an effective mechanism of approving charter schools," city school board Commissioner David Stone said of the first-ever conditional charter approval.

The school, which will serve grades 6-12, was approved for a five-year-contract starting in 2014 if it secures its nonprofit status, and will have to undergo an additional performance review and regular submission of financial records.

Green Street Academy's leaders said they were willing to work with the district in any capacity, though a charter license would give the school greater flexibility in how it spends its money and allow it to secure a new facility. Officials also said they were up-to-date on the 501(c)3 filing.

"It was always partnership, and we still see it that way," said Lawrence Rivitz, a co-founder of Green Street. "But we feel that this is a good opportunity to take [the school] to the next level, to take Green Street Academy to an institution."

The school board also approved the Banneker Blake Academy of Sciences and the Arts, which would open in East Baltimore in 2015 in place of Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy-East, which the district voted to close this year because of poor academic performance and financial mishaps.

Though the district's charter advisory board recommended denying the application, Alonso recommended giving the school a three-year contract because of high demand for an all-boys school in East Baltimore.

The school, which would open in 2015, would also have to undergo heightened academic and financial reviews. The board waived a provision that requires five-year terms.

The board upheld the denial of William C. March Elementary School to be run as a charter by National Education Partners.

And the Barbara Jordan Academy for Girls, which marked its third attempt to open the first all-female elementary school in Baltimore, was also denied.

"We'll see you next year," said Latrill Bass, the school's founder.

erica.green@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EricaLG

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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