South Florida Times
Written by Daphne Taylor
Thursday, 01 November 2012
WEST PALM BEACH — The Renaissance School at West Palm Beach is taking a different approach to the charter schools movement.
Instead of focusing on a specific theme for the school, the board has chosen an individualized approach to teaching students. And an educational management organization was selected to run the day-to-day operations of the school which opened this year on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard.
“We’re providing a different way of learning,” said Colleen Reynolds of Charter Schools USA, the company which has the contract to run the school. “The approach is unique; it’s a personal learning plan with each student. The focus is on each individual’s goals and what they can accomplish.”
It’s proven to be a winning formula for the success of charter schools, said Reynolds. Her company handles everything from the initial charter application process to the recruitment of students to the tailoring of the curriculum.
“The curriculum has been tested and found to be successful,” said Reynolds.
Renaissance also takes a different approach to parental involvement, requiring parents to do 20 hours of volunteer service. Parents can also go online to check their children’s test scores, homework, curriculum and attendance. If a child is in trouble in any of those areas, parents would know it.
“Parents can keep up immediately without a lapse,” Reynolds advised.
The students wear uniforms and the overall feeling promoted is one of a private school.
“Students and parents can get the feel of a private school but without the private school tuition,” Reynolds said.
Using a company such as Charter Schools USA may spell the difference between success and failure, judging by what happened to La Mensa charter school.
Six educators started La Mensa last year but it didn’t make it to a second term because of an inability to recruit the necessary number of students to meet the requirements of the School Board of Palm Beach County, which must approve such schools.
La Mensa, which was created as a technology charter school for K-3, closed due to lack of enrollment, even though the founders collectively had some 200 years of teaching and administration experience.
They were given much credit for caring for students and having great concern for the next generation but lacked the business skills needed to develop a marketing plan.
“Many people have a lot of passion and excitement but not the business acumen to make it happen,” Reynolds said.
The African-centered Joseph Littles-Nguzo Saba Charter School, also in West Palm Beach, has struggled for a decade to attract students. The founder, Amefika Geuka, said he could probably benefit from the services of an organization such as Charter Schools USA.
“We’ve absolutely thought about it,” said Geuka. “We’re open to such a partnership. It could make our lives a lot easier.”
Geuka said the fact that his school already is well established and has a theme of being African-centered could present challenges in such a collaboration.
His school has also struggled to maintain an above “D” rating on the state’s FCAT test. He attributes the low grade to the student population’s being on the lower end of the academic scale.
Reynolds said Charter Schools USA takes pride in bringing the schools they manage up to par within a couple of years. “It takes two to three years to bring it up to where we want it to be but we always get there,” Reynolds said.