School & District Management

Charter District?

March 01, 1996 2 min read

If charter schools are competition to most public school officials, Randy Bos has decided to throw in the towel. The superintendent of the 1,200-student Montabella school district in Edmore, Mich., has recommended that each of the district’s five schools become charter schools.

Embracing Michigan’s new charter school law, Bos says, will bring site-based management and increased accountability to the rural school system roughly 50 miles northwest of Lansing. “All the research that I’ve been able to dig into in the last 20 years shows that it works if you can give schools true authority rather than token authority,” he says.

In January, the local school board voted 6-1 to pursue the superintendent’s idea. The district will not make a final decision on the change until July. If it follows through on the plan, Montabella could become the first school district in the nation to undergo a whole-scale conversion to the charter approach.

Michigan is among the states that have recently enacted laws to encourage the creation of charter schools, which are independently designed and run but publicly funded. The concept has attracted many who see it as a way to reinvigorate the public schools.

But the idea of someone else running a local school is not an easy one for superintendents to swallow. “It’s difficult to give up control,” Bos admits. “But we’re responsible for way too many decisions that we shouldn’t be making.”

Under the superintendent’s plan, individual schools will have to write up charters by June for consideration by the board. If the charters are approved, all of the district’s per-pupil money--$4,815 a student--would go to the individual schools. Each would then pay the district for administrative services, such as transportation and the superintendent’s work. The school board would still exist as a fiscal agent with the authority to revoke a school’s charter. According to Bos, all five schools could be operating independently by next fall.

Still, the superintendent is not sure that all of them will want to convert. “Principals are very, very excited,” Bos says. But the Michigan Education Association, he adds, has been making some teachers fearful of the idea.

David Marston, principal of the district’s 265-student Blanchard Elementary School, believes the plan would enable his staff to make decisions more efficiently. Teachers, he says, had been concerned about job security but were recently reassured that their bargaining agreements would stay in place under the charters. “It’s something new,” Marston says, “and it’s not completely understood by any of us, so many questions can’t be answered.”

“We’re certainly not filling anyone with any ideas yet,” says Julius Maddox, president of the state teachers’ union. “We will be working to seek more information about the proposal, and the local members will decide what position they want to take.”

William Coats, president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Partnership for New Education, which promotes the creation of charter schools in the state, believes the plan would make the Montabella schools more sensitive and responsive to students’ needs. “It could be the ultimate in site-based decisionmaking,” he says.

--Laura Miller

A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 1996 edition of Teacher as Charter District?


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management L.A. Unified to Require Testing of Students, Staff Regardless of Vaccination Status
The policy change in the nation's second-largest school district comes amid rising coronavirus cases, largely blamed on the Delta variant.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
4 min read
L.A. schools interim Sup Megan K. Reilly visits Fairfax High School's "Field Day" event to launch the Ready Set volunteer recruitment campaign to highlight the nationwide need for mentors and tutors, to prepare the country's public education students for the upcoming school year. The event coincides with National Summer Learning Week, where U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is highlighting the importance of re-engaging students and building excitement around returning to in-person learning this fall. high school, with interim LAUSD superintendent and others. Fairfax High School on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.
In this July 14, 2021, photo, Los Angeles Unified School District interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly speaks at an event at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. Reilly announced a new district policy Thursday requiring all students and employees of the Los Angeles school district to take weekly coronavirus tests regardless of their vaccination status.
Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via TNS
School & District Management Why School Boards Are Now Hot Spots for Nasty Politics
Nationalized politics, shifts in local news coverage, and the rise of social media are turning school board meetings into slug fests.
11 min read
Collage of people yelling, praying, and masked in a board room.
Collage by Gina Tomko/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion The Six Leadership Lessons I Learned From the Pandemic
These guiding principles can help leaders prepare for another challenging year—and any future crises to come.
David Vroonland
3 min read
A hand about to touch a phone.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion When the National Education Debate Is Too Noisy, Look Local
A local network of your peers can offer not just practical advice, but an emotional safe harbor.
Christian M. Elkington
2 min read
A team of workmen on scaffolding rely on each other.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images