WMU News

WMU takes first step toward charter schools

December 11, 1998

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The WMU Board of Trustees accepted a resolution to exercise the University's right to become an authorizing body for public school academies. The resolution delegates authority to WMU President Elson S. Floyd to proceed with plans to eventually bring charter recommendations to the trustees. The Board of Trustees would then be asked to approve charters.

The charter recommendation also includes a position statement that affirms the University's continued support for public schools and vows to work with public schools as it begins granting charters.

"Charter schools need not erode support for public education," said Frank Rapley, dean of the WMU College of Education and former superintendent for Kalamazoo Public Schools. "We can partner with public schools in creating charters that provide opportunities for all children for higher levels of learning and that offer innovations that may currently not be available."

The position statement was the work of a committee of College of Education faculty working with area superintendents. Superintendents included Kay Royster, Kalamazoo Public Schools; Michael Bitar, Battle Creek Public Schools; Pat Newby, Grand Rapids Public Schools; James Rikkers, Portage Public Schools; Robert Spencer, Battle Creek Lakeview Public Schools; and Al Hawkins, Covert Public Schools.

The group drafted an approach to chartering that, through partnerships, cooperation and collaboration, will shape the character of charter schools in the state while not adversely impacting existing public education.

"That's the approach we're taking, which is a little different from what other universities have done," Rapley said. "We're more interested in partnerships with schools than simply issuing them a charter and then letting them do whatever they want to do as we provide oversight. We're a little more interested in working directly with them on whatever those innovations are."

A draft of the position statement was shared with other area superintendents and all College of Education faculty. Those other area superintendents involved were from the Paw Paw, Marcellus, Edwardsburg, Vicksburg, Constantine and Olivet public schools and the St. Joseph Intermediate School District. The final statement represents the collective thoughts of all who participated.

The statement's basic tenets stipulate that efforts must result in the improvement of learning and achievement for all students and express a desire to further define the character of charter schools.

The statement also says that the University will be actively involved in any school it grants a charter and intends to supplement and complement public school efforts, not duplicate programs. Any charter the University grants "must not erode existing public education nor negatively affect existing demographics in the district" where the school is chartered, the statement says.

Other objectives affirm that the University will:

Support efforts and meet existing needs in public schools and strive to address current limitations.

Involve the charter school's staff in continuing professional development activities.

Provide staff and students with the best educational opportunities as determined by current research.

Provide strong oversight to insure the school meets its obligations to students and the intent of the law.

Disseminate important findings to the K-12 education community and assist efforts to replicate successful programming within the public schools.

Evaluate the ongoing need and relevancy of programs.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400