Parents: New school would split Carbondale
A group of parents with children enrolled in Carbondale Elementary’s Montessori program said moving the town’s alternative-education curriculum to a charter school would split the town along ethnic lines and detract from current efforts to improve the academically struggling elementary school.The parents contacted last week were less worried about lagging standardized test scores, a concern recently raised by school district officials, saying they support the continuation of Montessori education in the elementary school.The Montessori philosophy promotes conceptual teaching and classes with children of different ages.Another group of Carbondale parents contends the district has undermined the elementary school’s program; they have applied to charter their own Montessori school.”I’m really concerned about the impact the charter school will have on the community,” said Debbie Bruell, whose daughter is a Montessori second-grader. “They won’t be attracting Latino families. I know that’s not their intent but it’s an uphill battle.”She said many parents have been concerned about ethnic segregation within the Montessori program since its inception. A majority of Anglo students at Carbondale Elementary are Montessori students.”I’m not concerned about poor test scores like the district,” Bruell said. “There’s a lot that Montessori teaches that’s not on standardized tests. It’s the effects on the community that worries me.”Terrie Ritche, mother of a Montessori third-grader, also said she supports alternative education but is concerned about the location of a new charter school.”My concerns with the charter are that I would want to make sure we have diversity,” she said. “The location of the charter will have a big impact on that. The charter school needs to be located in the core of Carbondale. So far I haven’t heard anything on where the new school will be placed.”Debi Martinez, whose daughter is a first-grade Montessori student, said she felt left out by the charter organizers during the planning process. She also worried that Anglo parents would use a Montessori charter school to take their children out of the majority-Latino Carbondale Elementary School.”I feel like the steering committee is doing things their own way without family feedback,” Martinez said. “People raise concern but having kids in a classroom that is the majority Latino. I think, what’s wrong with that? I was the only person of color in a public school.”Several Montessori parents also said founding a charter school misdirects energy that should be put toward improving Carbondale Elementary. The school is in its third year of probation by the state for poor academic performance on standardized tests.”There are some really positive things happening at [Carbondale Elementary],” Montessori parent Alice Laird said. “Imagine if all the effort being put into this charter was put into improving the public school that we already have.””I don’t think we have to leave the system – we can draw on the resources we have and focus our energy there,” Bruell said. Bruell and Laird added that Carbondale already has a charter institution (the Carbondale Community School) and a private school (The Waldorf School). They argued that opening another building is not the answer.”In a town of 6,000 people, do we really need two charter schools?” Laird said. “The public school system is supposed to be a gathering place for everyone. I just don’t think it’s the right thing to break away from that.”The application to charter the Montessori school is currently working its way through the state, with a decision likely to come in the spring.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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