R2 Board Reviews Charter School

RICHLAND — The Richland 2 Charter School reported during the Richland 2 School Board’s regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night at Longleaf Middle School that the school is open to junior and senior students who have good standing in discipline and academics. Thirty-four of the 40 seniors graduated this year with the same standards that all public high school students must meet. The on-line program offers academic classes, tutoring and counseling in a flexible schedule. Dr. Henry Lovett, principal of the Richland 2 Charter High School, has requested that the Board consider amending the school’s charter to include ninth- and 10th-graders. While stating that this program is not for everyone, former Superintendent Katie Brochu had sent letters to the District’s high school principals for their thoughts and it was thought the principals had been favorably inclined. Dr. Debbie Hamm, Interim Superintendent, will re-poll the principals, at the suggestion of the Board, and get the principals’ new feedback. The Charter School operates with the permission of the School Board/District but is funded with the local and state dollars that are attached to each student. The expansion of the program does not impact the budget of the District but the District does determine if the goals of the Charter School are a match for the objectives of Richland 2. A vote on the expansion of the lower high school grades will be a future item.

The AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program was modeled in Richland 2 a dozen years ago — flowing from the high schools to the middle schools and now to six of the elementary schools. High school students spoke of the merits of being in a program that supported them from sixth grade to graduation – giving them the skills to organize their work, prioritize their free time and practice public speaking. Their academic work improved and life skills were developed. Ridge View AVID teacher Tracy Skinner, herself an AVID graduate, spoke to the life-changing work of the program. Students selected are performing at a level below their potential. In some way in their life, they are underrepresented. Skinner had 18 seniors in her class. All of her students graduated and went on to college – earning more than $300,000 in scholarship money for their freshman years alone.

Hamm had accepted the Interim Superintendent position effective July 1. District Staff and teachers report that her leadership of the District actually began the day Brochu resigned, June 13. The Board approved the employment conditions of her Interim position: a supplemental $5,000 a month salary and $800 per month for auto expenses.

The Budget that was written in April in a special called meeting had awaited approval until local and state funding had been approved. With that known, the Board voted 6-1 to accept the $223 million general fund budget, with Barbara Specter casting the lone dissenting vote.

During closing statements by Board members, it was mentioned by several that the joy in the District for the coming year was contagious. When Hamm spoke of experiencing the same joy with the teachers in professional development earlier in the day, the audience broke out in spontaneous applause. On that note the Board broke for a second executive session to attend to personnel, legal and contractual matters. No vote was to be taken. The next Board meeting is Aug. 13 at Longleaf Middle School.