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Charter applicant asks state to mediate.

Byline: Anne Williams The Register-Guard

The Children's Peace Academy has scrapped plans to seek charter sponsorship in the Bethel School District and will instead appeal to the state last month's denial by the Eugene School Board.

Founder Wendy Strgar said she didn't think the timing was right in Bethel, given that the district will have a new superintendent in July.

But she also said it's a matter of principle. Eugene's decision was wrong and Bethel shouldn't have to make it right, she said.

"We have high hopes that state-sponsored mediation will create the space for us to find common ground to make this work for everyone," she said.

The peace academy had submitted an application to Bethel after anticipating a tough go of it in Eugene.

Joni Gilles, who coordinates charter school issues for the Oregon Department of Education, said the department received the notice of appeal last week and must collect additional information from both the applicant and the Eugene district as a first step.

"Then we'll take a look at setting up some mediation," she said. "When at all possible, we want the local school district to be the sponsor."

The school board voted unanimously in February to deny the charter application, upholding a recommendation by Superintendent George Russell. The district concluded that the charter school would have an adverse impact on existing schools by luring away students and the state dollars that follow them. It also found the proposal failed to meet all of the goals set in the 1999 charter school law.

Charter schools, which have their own governing boards and are free of some of the policies regular schools must follow, receive 80 percent of the per-pupil allocation from the state for elementary and middle school students and 95 percent for high school students. Sponsoring districts keep the rest.

Eugene is home to three charter schools - The Village School, Ridgeline Montessori Public Charter School and Pioneer Youth Corps Military Academy. Another applicant, the Network Charter School, will go to the school board for a public hearing in late April, with a board decision to follow in early May.

The peace academy plans an education program centered on teaching children how to live in harmony with their global and local communities and the natural world. The school expects to start out with between 50 and 100 students in kindergarten through grade 8.

Earlier this year, the state took on sponsorship of its first charter school, the Victory School, which was turned down by the Portland School Board. The Harding School in Corvallis has also appealed a denial based on adverse impacts, Gilles said. The Department of Education has yet to complete its review of that case, she said.

Gilles said she expects the peace academy appeal process will take between three and four months, which makes a fall opening unlikely.
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Title Annotation:Children's Peace Academy decides against appeal to Bethel district; Schools
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 24, 2003
Words:474
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