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Informing the Public about Charter Schools

Steve SmithHeadmaster Steve Smith, of Columbus Charter School, informed the Elizabethtown Rotary Club about Columbus Charter School and the differences between charter schools and traditional public schools at the club’s weekly meeting. Smith said, “A lot of people ask, how is a charter school different from a traditional public school? I’m going to let you know, there are a couple of major differences.”

“One difference is we get to choose the method we teach your children. We use the direct instruction method at the school, which is teacher lead. The teachers get the scripts, they get the lesson plans and then they give that information to the children. They don’t put lesson plans together, they don’t put scripts together. I know what they are teaching in every classroom and the kids preform magnificently.“ Smith said. He also said, “This is our ninth year. We have not tested this year yet. Seven out of 8 years we have scored the highest out of Bladen and Columbus Counties. We have had the highest academics.“

Charters are free public schools open to all applicants. Smith reported, “We have about 230 children that come from Bladen County. There are four or five car pool vans that help transport the children from Bladen County.” The school does not provide transportation or lunch options for students due to the limited funding.

Smith explained, “Charter schools are different from public schools in the way, if a child moves into a public school district the children will go to that (public) school. A charter school provides everyone a choice. All North Carolina residents can apply to go to any charter school in the state.” Without charter schools, only parents with the monetary means can exercise freedom of school choice by using private schools. Charter schools provide a freedom of choice for all parents, regardless of income. In NC, nearly 40,000 families have chosen to send their child to charter schools, and over 10,000 children are now on the waiting lists.

Teacher certification is another concern for parents. At charter schools 75% of the elementary school teachers must be certified and 50% of the middle school teachers must be certified. Smith said, “All our teachers are either certified or working on their lateral entry certification.”

The school schedule is another difference in the charter school verses the traditional public schools in this area. “We start in July, we go nine weeks and then take a three week break, start back, work nine weeks, take another three weeks, come back work nine weeks, get another three week break, then come back for nine more weeks and then graduate when the traditional schools do and have a six week break.” Smith said.

When asked if the charter school would be providing any higher levels of education Smith answered, “My opinion is as the children get older, the children need more extra-curricular activities, so if you have a child that is going to high school. There is a lot more that high schools have to provide, those things cost a lot more money to operate. Charter schools operate on a less money, so I don’t think we will be able to provide that option.” The charter school does not offer as many options for extra-curricular activities as the traditional public schools.

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