Charter School of the Dunes expects new relationship to boost student achievement

2013-04-30T17:45:00Z 2013-04-30T21:13:13Z Charter School of the Dunes expects new relationship to boost student achievementChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Christine Pepa, Charter School of the Dunes principal, says the school's new relationship with Calumet College of St. Joseph will help identify ways to boost achievement in its transient population.

Calumet College of St. Joseph held a public hearing Tuesday as part of the process to become the new sponsor of the Gary charter school in July.

Ball State University's Office of Charter Schools pulled its sponsorship of the school, along with six other schools, in January, citing low student performance and high turnover rate in leadership.

“One of the biggest challenges that we have is our transient population," Pepa said. "In our data, if one were to review our data, legacy students that have been there for over four years ... their standardized test scores are comparable to other schools throughout the region.

"But the transient students always have a great challenge due to the amount of grade levels behind they are when we receive them,” she said.

Pepa expects the school's enrollment to grow to 575 students next year. The charter school's current enrollment is 455, but is expected to increase, in part, because the school will add an 11th grade.

Of those students, the school experiences approximately 25 percent turnover. Pepa said many of those families leave the area for job opportunities.

Charter schools are public schools, allowing all parents — regardless of salary, race or where they live — to send children to the school of their choice.

In addition to allowing more entities such as the newly established Indiana Charter School Board to sponsor charter schools throughout Indiana, lawmakers last year also increased the level of accountability for public charter schools consistent with national standards for quality charter authorizing.

Calumet College of St. Joseph will have a three-year contract to assume the sponsorship of the charter school, President Daniel Lowery said. Charter School of the Dunes approached the college to become its sponsor. Lowery has said the relationship is a specific case, and the college is not looking to sponsor more charter schools.

“A lot of the due diligence has already been done — looking at the financials, looking at student progress reports,” Lowery said. "And also we met with their school board for the first time. It's really in the getting to know each other stage.”

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