Pike Creek Charter meeting report
5 mile radius for Pike Creek Charter (top circle) and radius for Newark Charter (lower circle)
h/t Free Map Tools
Last night I attended the meeting for the proposed Pike Creek Charter Middle School. The meeting was held in the fitness club’s gymnasium, and first of all let me say the acoustics were terrible. There was also a loud buzzing that seemed to be coming from the overhead lights, or perhaps a swarm of cicadas wintering in the rafters. So I couldn’t necessarily hear everything that was said, but I got the gist of it.
I’m terrible at estimating crowds, but there were maybe eighty to a hundred people in the small but well-equipped gym.
There is a lot of information to process here, but frankly I think it is too soon for charter critics to get out the long knives just yet. There will be time enough for that when the charter application is filed
One thing Kilroy and I have been wondering is: Who is the leadership? There were some answers last night. Yvonne Johnson, outgoing President of the Delaware PTA, started off the presentation by introducing spokesman Michael Smith. Smith spoke briefly and then introduced the “Family Board” consisting of eleven people. I didn’t catch all their names, but I can tell you these were truly people from the neighborhood and not corporate outsiders. Some of them knew my family from way back. Many of them were introduced as having advanced degrees, but I didn’t catch whether any of them were in education.
[UPDATE 12/15: The board is actually the Founding Board, not the Family Board (I TOLD you I couldn't hear anything!) and their names and qualifications are available on the Pike Creek Charter website at http://www.pikecreekchartermiddle.org ]
Some of us had been wondering about the involvement of State Representative Mike Ramone (R-Newark), who is the owner of the property. Ramone spoke next, and laid his cards on the table. He said that a group from the community had come to him about starting a charter school in Pike Creek, and the idea of using the fitness club property was proposed, and Ramone agreed.
Ramone said he plans to be the landlord for the charter school, but did not claim to be part of school leadership. He did however state that children, fitness, swimming, and education are priorities in his life, so it was a good fit. Ramone took great care to explain that he was there only in his capacity as landlord, and not as a state representative or a member of school leadership.
Ramone explained that the building is zoned commercial, and that he had other options that would have yielded up to $26/sf (or an outright sale), but he chose to retain control over the property and that a school would be the best neighbor.
Ramone said the building is available because he now has the opportunity to move the fitness business to a larger location nearby.
What Ramone did NOT say is that the abandoned Three Little Bakers club with golf course, clubhouse, restaurant, and swimming pool is walking distance away. As far as I know, the property is currently tied up in court as the developer seeks to break a deed restriction that requires it to remain open space. The developer lost the first round and is now appealing.
Next, one of the board members spoke and presented the academic plans for the school at a high level. Frankly I couldn’t hear most of it. But the school does incorporate the principles of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, and the speaker described a schoolday where the students don’t sit on one place but “get up and move with the teacher.”
One interesting detail: The plans are for all teachers to be dual-certified in their own content area as well as in special education.
State Senator Dave Sokola and Rep. Joe Miro were there, as was Councilwoman Kilpatrick, and another councilperson whose name I didn’t catch. None of the other elected officials spoke.
At the close of the presentations there was no open Q&A from the audience, which was a blessing due to the acoustics. Instead the audience was invited to stay and speak with the board members. Since there were eleven of them, it was much easier that way.
I learned a few interesting things:
1. The school will use the 5-mile radius admission.
2. The top capacity was roughly estimated at 370 (or less, depending on configuration).
3. There is some confidence that a grant for renovations will be available from the Longwood Foundation and possibly other sources.
Plans are to open the school in Fall 2014, which means the charter application is due January 2, 2013 (less than a month from now). I’m expecting the application will reveal more about leadership and financing. Look for the application here: