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College prep charter school for boys planned

A diverse group of educators — including a former Gilman School headmaster — plans to open a public charter school in 2012 that would focus on preparing high school students in the York Road corridor for college.

"We envision being the founding board of the school," said former Gilman head Jon McGill, a member of a foundation that is seeking approval of the Baltimore City school board.

The North Baltimore Preparatory School for Boys would be housed in the old Winston Middle School, at 1101 Winston Ave.

The community-based school, targeting families along the mostly black York Road corridor, would be the first of its kind in the city, said Peter Murrell, the former dean of the School of Education at Loyola University Maryland and a professor of urban education.

"At this point, there's no school that's focused on college access and African-American students," Murrell said.

The only school that is close to the model that the group is envisioning is the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, McGill said.

The school board last year approved an earlier version of the proposed charter school, and must now re-approve it, McGill said.

Murrell said the group won the approval of the school board last year for a so-called transformation school, which is a less independent public school than a charter. It was planned to open this fall.

But at the request of school system chief executive officer Andres Alonso, the group is reapplying as a charter school with a greater emphasis on early college access, Murrell said.

McGill said he doesn't mind that, because it gives the group another year of planning time. The group has already held a "friend-raiser," and hopes to raise money for extras, beyond state and federal funding that public charter schools get.

The school is envisioned as giving its students a head start in applying to college, said McGill and Murrell.

It would open with 150 students chosen by lottery, 75 each in sixth and seventh grades, and phase in students in grades eight through 12, they said.

Students would start taking college-level classes in the 10th or 11th grade and would finish high school with as many as 60 college credits.

That could save students time and money by allowing them to graduate from college in two to three years, McGill said.

"We're building a college readiness high school," he said.

The plan is based on the "early college high school model," developed at Princeton University by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, McGill said.

With a potentially high number of disadvantaged students, "our job will be to create a curriculum and a teaching staff that knows how to move students," McGill said.

McGill said Loyola's involvement in the project has helped in pitching it to the school board.

"They're excited about Loyola's involvement — and they're excited about the early college high school," McGill said.

Murrell stressed that the charter school is not just a Loyola project.

Other foundation members include Ed Davies, director of after-school programs for Washington; Tracy Rone, research associate at the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University; and Sarah Manekin, a lecturer in Johns Hopkins University's Expository Writing Program.

McGill said that he would only be involved in the school as a volunteer member of the board of trustees. He said he has no plans to leave his post as director of academic affairs for the Baltimore Curriculum Project, the nonprofit operator of four existing charter schools in Baltimore.

McGill was Gilman School headmaster from 2001 to 2007.

Murrell said Loyola has been reaching out to communities in the area with initiatives such as Loyola Is Listening, to find out their needs and how the university can help.

A York Road outreach initiative is built into the university's master plan, Murrell said.

Now, a public charter school could be a key component of that effort.

"Public schools are important to America," Murrell said.

 

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