Charter School of the Dunes working to meet objectives

2013-12-08T22:30:00Z 2013-12-09T11:06:04Z Charter School of the Dunes working to meet objectivesCarmen McCollum, (219) 662-5337

Officials at Calumet College of St. Joseph are keeping a close eye on the Charter School of the Dunes.

Calumet College became the charter school's new sponsor July 1, after its previous authorizer, Ball State University, ended its sponsorship. Ball State officials cited, among other things, low student performance and high turnover in leadership. The school has a ranking of 101 out of 114 Lake County schools.

While schools know their most recent school grade, the Indiana Department of Education has not released the information to the public. Officials at the Charter School of the Dunes declined to release its score.

Ball State had sought to close Charter School of the Dunes early this year, just a few months before contractors finished the new $13 million building. School Board President Danielle Sleight said the school chose to search for a new authorizer.

Joi Patterson, vice president of academic affairs and chief operating officer at Calumet College, and Jessica Madden, an assistant professor who serves as a liaison, said the school has conditions that must be met.

Patterson said there are reasons why Calumet College took the school over, and will monitor it closely.

"We thought we could hold them further accountable," she said.

Madden said Thursday she met with charter school leaders in late November. Madden said she does not have any comparison data from the school, but there have been academic and attendance improvements.

"They have made some gains overall, across the board, but has there been the type of gains we'd like to see? No," Patterson said, but added that's not going to happen in a year.

In its application to Calumet College, Charter School of the Dunes officials said they have had "great success" with individual academic performance.

They acknowledged low test scores in the past on the state-mandated ISTEP-Plus test, but said it was due to multiple variables.

Patterson said they intend to look at the "legacy" students, those students who have been at the school since kindergarten, as well as how the entire student population performs.

In a couple of years, Patterson said she expects the charter school to have a passing grade from the Indiana Department of Education.

"They have many goals to meet, not just with ISTEP-Plus but with other assessments as well, and they have metrics to meet for Calumet College to continue authorizing them," Patterson said.

The current enrollment is 560 students in grades K through 11. There are 35 teachers. Of the total number of students 113, are in special education.

Christine Pepa, Charter School of the Dunes principal, said the number of special education students may increase. She said overall enrollment also fluctuates. The school has the capacity to hold 700 students.

Pepa is in her fifth year as principal. Sleight, who established the school and has fought long and hard to make it successful, said Pepa is "perfect" for the job.

In addition to academics, Calumet College officials are looking for the school to reduce its number of suspensions. Last year at this time, there were 157 suspensions, compared with 65 now. Madden said the school is making good progress.

Pepa thinks it's great Calumet College is so involved with the charter school. "There is more communication. It's more of a partnership instead of just an authorizer," she said.

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