Embracing charter schools

The public school system is missing an opportunity. While the Guam Board of Education wants to divorce the charter schools from its system, they should consider totally embracing them.

The superintendent of Guam public schools was purposely included in the Charter School Council. We wanted to ensure that the leadership was engaged in the decisions made for the charters schools —which are public schools. They are public schools because taxpayer monies fund them. A difference is the elimination of bureaucracy which slows student and teacher support – to do what they believe should be done for student growth and performance for this millennium.

The Guam Board of Education should develop a conversion plan for future charter schools. While there are some teachers who do not want to deal with the steps to realize a school of dreams for students and teachers, there are many who want to. They hesitate, though because they see Guahan Academy stumbling along their journey.

Teachers would love to see a charter school for the fine arts. Many think Southern High should become Guam’s Fine Arts School. Starting with preschool throughout grade 12, students with the natural intelligence of song, dance, visual arts, theatre should be learning core content through the arts. Imagine starting with groups of students, teachers, families and growing with them until they graduate!

Many would love to see an environmental school – where students can become stewards of our natural resources. This school could include the development of agricultural products; they would grow roof gardens, push for pineapple plantations, learn about aquaculture. They would partner with parks and recreation in keeping our island healthy, accessible and refreshed.

We can turn Anne Marie’s Hurao into a charter school where local culture and language is learned and celebrated. We could have a Tourism Hospitality Charter where cultures and languages can be learned as eco tourism is advanced. We could have a ROTC Leadership Academy where healthy habits, skills, attitudes and values are started from the very beginning – imagine the increase of responsible behavior by students as they engage in curriculum that models right from wrong. A Culinary Arts Charter would be a place where recipes are tested and treasured. Guam teams would bring home even more awards. We could have a Human Service Charter where students learn about human growth and development and focus on service learning. Francis Santos’ ILearn is doing well and there is most likely interest in additional technology charter schools. A Writing Charter would support budding authors and poets – Guam style! The Science is Fun and Awesome Charter is a place for budding genius in the science, technology, engineering, and math stream.

There is Bert Johnson’s Trades Academy and Steve McManus’ Career Tech High which is hoping for funding. Guam needs more. We should not have to depend on H2 workers to build and develop our property and realize our projects. Bert and Steve should receive the resources needed to build local capacity.

There are reasons parents choose charter schools. They’re focused on identified learning areas that motivate and serve in the best learning interests of their children. The Charter School Council should ensure that every teacher meets certification standards and is paid accordingly. Professional development programs must be continuous.

Yes, the Charter School Statute would need to be amended to allow as many conversion schools into charters as wanted but know public schools have always evolved in the best interests of the current landscape. This is a great opportunity to turn the system into learning structures that start at pre-kindergarten and seamlessly articulate into the world of work or post-secondary education – for all students.