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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

Charter school proposal gaining support in U-46


By Seth Hancock
  A vote by the Board of Education in School District U-46 on the proposed Elgin Math and Science Academy (EMSA) charter proposal will take place later this month, and already board members are indicating it’ll have more support than in 2014 when EMSA was denied by a 6-1 vote.
  Of current members, three were on the board during the previous vote as Traci Ellis and Donna Smith voted against the charter while Veronica Noland was the lone supporter.
  Board member Phil Costello has already told the public he’ll be voting in favor of the proposal when he gave a statement at the board meeting on Monday, March 20.
  “I support competition, innovation, school choice and local school control that are embodied in EMSA’s team and their proposal,” Costello said. “More importantly, I plan on voting for the EMSA proposal for the same reasons I supported full day kindergarten and the (Elgin Community College) dual credit program. EMSA and these programs focus on recognizing and engaging individual student growth potential and not a homogenous approach as if all of our 40,000 students should have the same educational path, experience and outcomes. With a ‘best-in-class’ education model, I am confident that U-46 will attract more residents to lower the individual tax rate burden.”
  Noland has said during her reelection campaign that she supported EMSA in 2014 because of the expeditionary learning model, which is still the planned model in the current proposal, but has said this is a new proposal and she has not made a decision yet. Noland, running for reelection on a slate that has opposed school choice, has said there are stipulations for her supporting a charter, one being the ability of unionization.
  Ellis and Smith have not indicated one way or another how they plan to vote, and board member Sue Kerr has seemed receptive to the proposal.
  Board members Cody Holt and Jeanette Ward have philosophically supported school choice throughout their time on the board, and both have confirmed with The Examiner that they plan to vote in favor of the EMSA proposal.
  Ward told The Examiner she agreed with the reasoning Costello gave at the meeting and she believed the competition spurred by school choice can lead to innovations and a better education.
  Holt said: “There are many things about this charter school proposal that I absolutely love and I think will improve the quality of education for many students in the district and provide more options for the parents. One of the great things is the charter will have the freedom to have its own independent curriculum which quite frankly will spur innovation and competition. Who knows, maybe even the district can learn from some of the things the charter school might be doing right.”
  Costello said at the March 20 meeting that part of his support came from the Elgin City Council’s 7-1 vote to support a $1 lease for EMSA’s proposed site at the former Fox River Day School campus. He said EMSA will revitalize a vacant building in Elgin and that according to a Bloomberg report property values increase by 3.5 percent where there are charter schools.
  Over a year ago, Costello visited the site with other members of the community for a “visioning session,” and “more impressive than the presentations was the impromptu visit by two deer that meandered up to the presentation room window to observe us humans in our native habitat. I find that the EMSA plan demonstrates a comprehensive and measured approach to achieve success by methodically and purposefully enrolling K to third graders to allow EMSA time to fully develop its delivery model while resolving any unforeseen shortcomings.”
  Costello added: “I am hopeful that we can use the EMSA template to apply to all of our U-46 schools with an expectation that empowers them to create their own education model. I view the EMSA team and their proposal as a valued partnership that will benefit the U-46 community. I have no misgivings that the EMSA model is perfect but I believe that by approving this charter, we will be another step closer toward recognizing the endless potential of our students who want a great education with customized resources and an array of opportunities.”

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