NUSD Poised To OK New Charter School

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz
Natomas school officials are poised to open a new charter school on the former Leroy F. Green Middle School campus.
The Natomas Unified school board is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on a petition to create Leroy Greene Academy at its regularly scheduled board meeting tonight, Jan. 25. Open session is expected to start at 7 p.m.
As proposed, Leroy Greene Academy would be the first dependent charter school located within the Natomas Unified School District boundaries. Currently, there are five independent charter schools operating within the Natomas district, all located north of Interstate 80. (Smythe Academy, on Northgate, is a dependent K-6 charter school operated by the Twin Rivers Unified School District.)
School board members in November voted to consider reopening the Leroy Greene campus as a dependent charter school. The proposal has since been fast tracked and school board members are expected to take action tonight to OK the new school.
As proposed, the petition would create a K-12 dependent charter school. If approved, the school would open to 7th and 8th graders for the 2012-13 year and expand one grade level each school year through 12th grade.
(The charter petition also allows for a kindergarten through 6th grade program at a later date.)
Leroy F. Greene Middle School was closed by the district as a cost-saving measure in 2010. The closure allowed the district to rehabilitate and repair reported construction defects as well as allow time to restructure the school’s troubled academic programs, which had come under fire by district administration and some parents.
The initial plan was to reopen the Leroy Green campus as a magnet school, but district officials decided instead to pursue a dependent charter school program. In November, the school board appointed former Natomas High School vice principal Angela Herrera as principal of the proposed Leroy Greene Academy.
Interim superintendent Dr. Walt Hanline suggested a dependent charter which allows flexibility in curriculum decisions and hiring, including the ability to hire non-union employees to work at the school. Leroy Greene Academy employees will be considered “at-will” employees of the charter school only and not Natomas Unified School District employees.
Natomas Teacher Association officials have gone on record opposed to opening the school as a charter. They contend more start-up money and federal funding is available for a magnet school model.
Hererra said the district conducted a survey to gauge what types of programs to offer at Leroy Greene Academy.
“Survey results were strongly in favor of visual arts with technology integration program and also for business and marketing program,” she said.
Early plan for a Science, Technology, Engineering & Math – or STEM program – were scraped because nearby Natomas High School has a growing STEM program. The final charter petition for Leroy Green Academy proposes a focus on the visual arts, business and marketing.
“Choosing these two focus programs allows Leroy Greene to grow strong academic and specialty offerings without competing with Natomas High’s STEM program,” Hererra said.
Leroy Green Academy students will take the same core classes offered at other middle schools. Starting in 9th grade, they will also take “wheel” classes aligned with the school’s two specialty programs.
According to the charter petition, high school students will take classes that meet the admission requirements for the University of California and the California State University programs, and work with community member mentors on senior projects.
“We intend on providing courses that will allow all of our students to be competitive for any university or college,” Herrera said.
“We have planned for 175 seats at each the 7th and 8th grades, with 350 as the total enrollment number,” said  Herrera.
According to Herrera, the application process includes basic demographic information, questions for prospective students and school expectations for students and parents to review. All students are encouraged to apply but if a lottery is necessary, students within the original Leroy F. Greene Middle School boundaries will have priority enrollment.
At press time, it was not clear whether a parent participation requirement similar to those at Natomas Charter and Westlake Charter schools would be a part of the Leroy Greene Academy program. Applications for the new Leroy Greene Academy will be available beginning in February.

Brandy Tuzon Boyd contributed to this report.

A Leroy Greene Academy information night will be held 6 p.m. next Tuesday, Jan. 31 in the H. Allen Hight Elementary School cafeteria, 3200 North Park Drive, in Natomas. 

Leroy Green Academy Charter Petition Packet

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