Online charter school courts RUSD

   A Newport Beach-based nonprofit with visions of starting a statewide online charter school is petitioning Ramona Unified School District (RUSD) to open its independent study program here.

   If RUSD sponsors the Global Tides charter, it would lose an estimated $8,118 per student who enrolled in the charter school but would receive money for each student who joined the program from San Diego, Imperial, Riverside and Orange counties.

   A charter school is a publicly funded school that operates independently from a sponsoring district, but the sponsoring district has oversight responsibilities.

   Global Tides, created by Charter School Development Systems, plans to work with at-risk students who may drop out of school. The online kindergarten through grade 12 charter program is petitioning 91 school districts in 14 California counties in hopes of partnering with one district in each of the targeted counties.

   Once a charter is established in a county, the program will service students in that county and surrounding counties. A charter with a district in San Diego County, for example, would open the program to other districts in San Diego, Imperial, Riverside and Orange counties.

   Blaise Subbiondo, president of E-Teaching Assistance Program (eTAP), represented charter petitioners at the Ramona school board meeting on Oct. 15. Marco Salazar, vice president of research and development for Charter School Development Systems, had planned to attend but was in Northern California. He said he plans to be at the board’s meeting in November.

   Subbiondo’s firm, in existence for 10 years, would supply the online program for Global Tides.

   “Our charter school is intending to help the students who, for some reason, are not doing well,” he said. “Even though you have these excellent programs and an excellent education system here, (the online charter school would be for students) having attendance problems and who may be on the verge of dropping out. We don’t expect that we will be helping many students here, because it sounds like your program’s excellent.”

   Outlining the reasons he believes the charter school would succeed, Subbiondo said research indicates today’s students retain 20 to 50 percent more if they receive the information online. Because of high exposure to video games and Sesame Street, “their brains are wired slightly differently than ours,” he said.

   The online program is comprehensive and provides automatic remedial material and videos to keep students engaged, he said. “Students become active in deciding when they do the assessment, when they read the instruction, when they watch the video. They do the selection.”

   Ramona already offers online courses to students and includes videos in the curriculum, school officials said.

   “We’re very optimistic that the program will have success for the few students who are not doing well, and we’re asking you to be our partners,” said Subbiondo. “...We’re not looking to take students from your regular programs...who are doing fine.”

   The Ramona school board is expected to respond to the charter school petition at its meeting on Nov. 19.

   Salazar on Monday said that Charter School Development Systems so far has received positive and negative responses to its petitions. The positive responses have been from Central California, he said.

One to 3 percent of the money the charter school would receive to operate  would go to the district chartering the online program, said Salazar.

   “We’re nonthreatening,” he said. “We’re not like the regular charter schools that steal your kids.”

   
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