Former CCI Charter Shouldn't Take Its Second Chance from DPS for Granted

Like other public schools, charter schools can fail, too. The advantage is it’s generally easier to shut charters down or to reconstitute them in a way that better ensures success. The Denver Post has a story today about giving just such a second chance:

An embattled Denver charter school has a new name and a new agreement with Denver Public Schools after a vote by the school board Thursday.

The former Challenges, Choices and Images charter school for kindergartners through 12th-graders is now Amandla Academy — named after the Zulu word for strength.

The school voluntarily terminated its charter contract with the district, effectively severing the district and the current school leaders from any financial liabilities incurred by CCI.

“This was all legal stuff to get the new school to go forward without being encumbered,” said Russell Caldwell, senior vice president at the brokerage firm D.A. Davidson. “The good news is DPS financially and legally acted very prudently to allow the new charter to have conditions in which it will grow and flourish.”

The agreement turns the K-12 school of 600 students into a contract school through June 30, and Amandla officials plan to submit an application to become a charter school before the contract runs out.

What exactly are contract schools? Funny you should ask. Because Marya DeGrow, one of my friends in the Education Policy Center, wrote an Issue Paper three years ago titled Contract Schools Bring Innovative Choices to Denver Public Schools (PDF). A “contract school” is defined in the School Choice for Kids glossary as:

A tuition-free independent school that is not operated by the school district. The school’s operator signs a contract with the local Board of Education to provide an educational program. Contract schools are not under charter school law.

In any case, I certainly hope the school formerly known as CCI has gotten its act together, after some fairly serious problems reported with the leadership and culture of the school. The school can live out its focus on ancient African principles – such as propriety, order, truth, and purpose. For the sake of the kids who benefit from the unique program offered at CCI/Amandla, a second chance like this ought not be wasted or taken for granted in the least.