BOE denies all-girl charter school

SUWANEE - A proposed all-girls charter school was voted down by the school board Thursday in part because there is no comparable opportunity for boys, school board members said.

But the Ivy Preparatory Academy still has a chance to open its doors, although it's unclear if the academy can open in 2008 or will have to wait until 2009.

Charter schools are public schools supported by tax dollars that have some flexibility with which to develop innovative curriculums and teaching methods. They can be started by people who have no connection to the local board of education or by school district leaders.

Nina Gilbert, a former Gwinnett teacher and administrator, proposed the all-girls school because studies show that girls learn better without the distraction of boys in the classroom.

"Girls are more likely to be involved in classroom discussion and take positions of leadership," Gilbert said.

The single-sex environment also allows teachers to tailor their methodology to girls' unique style of learning, which is different than boys', Gilbert said.

"Our large schools are

often unable to meet the diverse needs of students," she said.

Under the academy's proposed charter, students would have attended school from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. for 190 days, rather than the standard 180 days.

Cindy Loe, associate superintendent for teaching and learning for Gwinnett County Public Schools, outlined a number of concerns over the school's proposed charter.

It overstated revenue, understated salaries and did not budget enough money for testing, transportation and insurance, resulting in a budget shortfall, Loe said.

The board voted unanimously to deny the academy's application until the concerns are resolved, said Alvin Wilbanks, superintendent of Gwinnett County Schools.

Once the charter has been rewritten and corrected, the academy's officials can take their proposal directly to the state board of education or reapply with the Gwinnett County Board of Education. Because the application deadline for the 2008-09 school year was May 1, Loe said she was unsure whether the application would still be valid for the 2008-09 school year or if academy officials are now looking at a 2009 opening.

School board member Robert McClure said he

didn't believe that the local school board should be the overseer of charter schools.

"The charter school movement indicates that many people are looking for an alternative to public school education," McClure said. "It's puzzling to me that we are asked to oversee it."