The Oklahoma City School Board heard Monday night from two local applicants wishing to start charter schools in the district that would receive public funding, teach Oklahoma City students but be run privately.
The board has the ultimate power to decide whether to allow the charter schools to move forward and will vote on the issue in January.
The district currently has 12 charter schools and another downtown elementary charter school approved to open.
“We want to serve the whole child,” said Tamera Washington, founder of Harper Academy, one of the two proposed charter schools. “We're proposing to provide outreach services to go into the homes … to seek to serve those needs and empower the family.”
Washington said that the charter school, proposed to be located at 3915 N Pennsylvania Ave., will cater to high-risk students such as those who have dropped out, are teen parents or pregnant, or have diagnosed behavior health issues.
Board members asked how the school would differ from an existing charter school — SeeWorth Academy — that focuses on at-risk students including those with juvenile records.
“I actually worked at SeeWorth when SeeWorth first started,” Washington said. “We're going to come from a social-work perspective. We're going to go into those homes and we're going to … provide services to those families; we're going to open up doors to them.”
Board member Phil Horning pushed both applicants to disclose who is behind the charter applications and provide resumes showing their qualifications to run a school.
“A charter applicant is asking us to hand over to them the education of a school full of Oklahoma City Public School kids so it's our job to feel very comfortable about who we are handing it over to,” Horning said.
Washington responded that there were seven members — most of whom had experience in social work or volunteer work.
The second charter school applicant is hoping to open a school to serve the 73114 ZIP code, an area in north Oklahoma City that has high poverty and a high crime rate.
John Birsner spoke on behalf of the proposed Lighthouse of Hope Academy, which he said could be located at NW 90th and Olive on property owned by Britton Christian Church.
“I am just one of a number of concerned residents and business owners in the area,” Birsner said.
He declined to name others behind the charter school organization, but he said Ronda Hamilton, the current principal at Edwards Elementary School, was a founding member.
Birsner said they hope to have an attendance boundary like the Stanley Hupfeld Academy charter school that took over the Western Village attendance boundary. The proposed charter school for downtown Oklahoma City also will have an attendance boundary.
In other business, the board approved issuing $35 million in bonds that voters approved in 2007 as part of a plan to build gymnasiums at elementary schools and expand classrooms.