Bowling Green Charter School (Sacramento City Unified School District)
On November 2, 1998, the 1998-1999 Sacramento Grand Jury toured the Bowling Green Charter School, at 4211 Turnbridge Drive, in the Sacramento City Unified School District. The Sacramento City Unified School District has the largest K-12 student population in Sacramento County.
Bowling Green Charter School, located in South Sacramento, is currently the only charter school in the District. The charter school concept was developed in order to allow schools to provide special, less traditional approaches to servicing a target group of students. Charter schools are allowed to cut through "red tape" in order to better serve these special populations. The only funding usage restrictions are on federal funds. All state and local funds are to be used for the benefit of the entire school.
At the time of the Grand Jury's visit, enrollment in Bowling Green Charter School consisted of approximately 750 students; 500 students were on campus, 50 students were in the handicapped center on campus, and approximately 200 students were being bused off-campus because of space limitations.
Bowling Green Charter School was started in an effort to develop and implement a different approach to educating low-achieving students in a low-income urban area. The Grand Jury was told that before Bowling Green received its charter sanction, the school was one of the poorest-performing elementary schools in the District. It now ranks in the middle third of the District's 60 schools. According to District officials, this is quite an accomplishment. The statistics provided by school administrators revealed that more than 80 percent of the students are ethnic minorities and more than 40 percent are classified as "English as Second Language."
Because of charter school autonomy, Bowling Green has been able to obtain land, secure a $2 million loan for the construction of a satellite campus off Franklin Boulevard, and allow for the environmental assessment to be outsourced. With assistance and guidance from the chief financial officer of Sacramento City Unified School District, Bowling Green was able to secure the loan at 3.5 percent interest for ten years. The Grand Jury was informed this new campus will require 12 new teachers to enable the school to accommodate its current enrollment demands.
Bowling Green's funds go through the Sacramento City Unified School District's accounting system. The funds are accounted for onsite by an accountant clerk. The clerk reconciles Bowling Green's funds and expenditures with those of the District. The District has an outside auditor and once a year audits the accounting data of all its schools; Bowling Green is part of this auditing cycle.
The Grand Jury observed a great deal of energy and pride at Bowling Green Charter School. Both teachers and administrators advised the Grand Jury that the site-based decision process has allowed many improvements that would not have been easily secured under traditional school administration. For example, a charter school can make purchases of goods or services outside traditional methods simply because charter schools have much greater latitude than traditional schools. The example given to the Grand Jury was the replacement of a broken window. To requisition a window and the labor to complete the job is ordinarily a cumbersome and time-consuming procedure. Under charter school procedures a contractor, independent of the school district, was called to Bowling Green allowing the task to be completed that same day and at minimal cost.
The Bowling Green Charter School's revised charter statement of 1998, amendment 6, focuses on student achievement in the following areas:
1. Literacy. Students will read for: a) pleasure, b) understanding and c) information. Students will write and speak with conviction, structure, and detail. They will learn and use editorial skills that will help them communicate with simplicity and clarity in all forms of communication.
2. Math/Science. Students will: a) discuss mathematical and scientific relationships, reason logically, c) think critically, and d) use mathematical and scientific skills and concepts.
3. Social Skills. Students will know and practice lifeskills. They will identify and articulate their application in the diverse cultures and communities of the present, as well as in the civilizations and societies of the past.
4. Physical Fitness. Students will increase their physical fitness by demonstrating flexibility, strength, and aerobic conditioning. They will also demonstrate awareness of a healthy lifestyle.
5. Visual and Performing Arts. Students will demonstrate their developing talents in the visual and performing arts.
The charter statement asserts:
"In the process of mastering these five outcomes, students will meet district standards in each of these areas."
As stated by the director and staff, charter school formation and operation is not easy. There must be a zealous attitude. The Grand Jury was told additional time commitments have been made by teachers, staff, and parents to support this innovative school and its goals.
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