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Charter School Expansion Approved

Vanessa de la Torre

January 18, 2012

More than 100 city parents who packed the board of education meeting Tuesday night got what they wanted: a high school for Achievement First Hartford Academy.

In a first for the city, the board approved expanding the kindergarten-through-8th-grade charter school on Greenfield Street to the high school level. Ninth grade will be added this summer; grades 10-12 are expected to follow in subsequent school years.

School administrators say the inaugural freshman class should include 65 to 75 students, including graduates of the nearby Jumoke Academy charter school. Financial details are to be negotiated.

Tuesday's 6-2 vote, cheered loudly in the audience, was one of the board's last decisions before Mayor Pedro Segarra appoints five members who will begin new four-year terms next month. Segarra is expected to name his choices Wednesday.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said she was encouraged by Achievement First Hartford's test scores over the past two years, which have shown improvement and outperform the district average.

But board member Robert Cotto Jr. opposed the expansion, arguing that it would siphon resources from city schools such as M.L. King, which is across the street from the charter school, and Weaver High, also in the city's North End. School officials say both need extensive renovations.

Statewide, six charter schools serve high school grades in the 2011-12 year, according to the state Department of Education: Amistad Academy, Common Ground High School and Elm City College Preparatory School in New Haven; the Bridge Academy in Bridgeport; Stamford Academy in Stamford; and Explorations Charter School in Winsted.

Amistad Academy and Elk City College Prep are part of Achievement First's network of charter schools in Connecticut. Achievement First Hartford Academy opened in 2008 in the former Mark Twain School, and is now at the Lewis Fox Middle School building.

"If they run the high school like they've been doing in New Haven, with 100 percent of graduates going to college, then that's what our parents want," said Michael Sharpe, the chief executive officer of Jumoke Academy, a high-performing charter on Blue Hills Avenue that will graduate 42 eighth-graders this year.

Achievement First Hartford is the only charter school in the state that is affiliated directly with a school system. Under a long-term agreement, the city schools provide the Fox Middle building, maintenance, utilities, student meals, transportation and other services. The city's adopted education budget this fiscal year includes $2.35 million for Achievement First Hartford.

In addition, the school system agreed to spend $1.5 million to share the cost of renovating Fox.

Achievement First's test scores are part of the district's figures and the school is included in the city's choice program.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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