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SRC approves charter renewals, expansion

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(Updated, 5:30 p.m.) The School Reform Commission held another special Friday morning session to consider the renewal of three charter schools and a grade expansion at one other. The SRC approved the renewal of Alliance for Progress and Southwest Leadership Academy charters and the expansion of Esperanza Academy - which was not up for renewal - to serve grades 6-12. In all, the District added 866 seats in charters through the SRC votes.

The renewal of Eastern University Academy was withdrawn pending receipt of more information.

Esperanza Academy, which had proposed to add 1,025 students and serve grades K-12, will instead expand by 710 students. Alliance for Progress will grow by 100 students, and Southwest Leadership by 56. All three schools have agreed to cap their enrollments as requested by the District.

A presentation at the meeting by Thomas Darden, who heads the District's charter school office, showed that the District is projecting charter enrollment to grow by more than 32,000 students in all over the next five years, with 13,450 of those resulting from charter modifications such as the three expansions approved.

In 2010, both Alliance for Progress and Southwest Leadership Academy had earned a score of 9, the second-lowest rating, on the District's school performance index (SPI). But both schools showed progress, improving their scores to a 7 in 2011. Eastern University Academy, still awaiting its reauthorization vote, was recommended for renewal by staff despite earning a score of 8 on the SPI.

After the vote, public speakers addressed the SRC about the possiblity that Creighton Elementary might become a Renaissance charter. Last month, the SRC postponed a decision on a staff recommendation turning over Creighton to an outside manager after teachers and parents presented their own turnaround plan. A recommendation on Creighton by Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon is expected next week.

The School District tweeted updates from the meeting, and it was streamed online.

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