Our Charter

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SECOND ANNUAL STATE OF THE CHARTER ADDRESS

Carpenter Avenue Elementary School became Carpenter Community Charter, a district-affiliated charter school of LAUSD, in June of 2010. Carpenter held its second State of the Charter address on April 24, 2012. The informative 90-minute meeting was facilitated by Principal Martinez and Governance Council Chair, Heather Tonkins, and was followed by an informal Q&A. Highlights from the meeting included

  • A recap of the school's mission, vision, and the significance/benefits of being a charter school
  • A review of our second year as a Charter: Write from the Beginning school-wide writing program, Singapore Math, intervention programs for student performing at near proficient or below proficient levels, and curriculum innovations
  • A description of the Governance Council’s role and the work completed by the Council during year two of the charter
  • An outlook for the 2012-2013 school year: Educational program goals for Write from the Beginning, Singapore Math, and intervention
  • An overview of how our school community has come together this year: A brief overview of Carpenter’s parent volunteer groups, how to stay involved, and Donor’s Choose

If you missed this important meeting, you can download the presentation:

State of the Charter Address Presentation, April 24, 2012

OUR CHARTER

Over the past few years, Carpenter (like many schools in LAUSD) has received a diminished amount of funding and resources while trying to maintain the enriched and innovative educational program on which we have built our reputation. So in early 2010, we applied to become a District Affiliated Charter with the following goals:

  • Have greater autonomy over our school’s curriculum, budget, and governance.
  • To formalize and institutionalize Carpenter’s mission and vision of providing and enriched educational program that not only meets academic standards established by the state and district, but integrates the arts, technology, physical education and hands-on learning into the instructional program.
  • To involve the whole community (parents, teachers, administration) in the adoption and advancement of our educational program – and at the same time, to make us all accountable for results.
  • To be able to fund innovative programs at the school to close achievement gaps, enhance learning opportunities for all students, and to develop best practices that could be adopted by other schools in the district.

On June 15, 2010, the LA Unified Board of Education approved our application, and Carpenter was granted affiliated charter status for a period of five years. Over the summer, we began the conversion effort (mostly administrative and invisible to the untrained eye), and we look forward to our first full school year as Carpenter Community Charter. We are very optimistic about building on our school’s rich legacy and becoming an even stronger example of innovation and excellence in the school district.

CHARTER FAQs

How is a charter school different from other public schools?

Charter schools are public schools and may provide instruction in any of grades K-12. A charter school is generally created or organized by a group of teachers, parents and community leaders, a community-based organization or a third-party organization, and is usually sponsored by an existing local public school board or county board of education. Specific goals and operating procedures for the charter school are detailed in an agreement (or "charter") between the sponsoring board and charter organizers.

What kind of charter school is Carpenter?

Carpenter is a “District Affiliated” charter school. A District affiliated charter school adheres to all LAUSD guidelines and policies while gaining more autonomy with the school budget and curriculum choices. The term of the school’s charter is for five years and is up for renewal in 2015.

What kind of charter school is Carpenter?

Carpenter is a “District Affiliated” charter school. A District affiliated charter school adheres to all LAUSD guidelines and policies while gaining more autonomy with the school budget and curriculum choices. The term of the school’s charter is for five years and is up for renewal in 2015.

Why did we convert to an affiliated charter?

By converting to a District Affiliated charter school, we are seeking greater autonomy in the areas of curriculum, staffing and governance.  We believe that at the school level, we are better equipped to determine how to allocate the resources to serve the needs of all children at Carpenter. A charter allows us greater flexibility at the school level and will enable us to advance our innovative instructional program – and at the same time, holding us accountable for our results.

What is the difference between independent and affiliated charter schools?

Independent charters receive the fullest autonomy and flexibility permitted by the law, but no organizational support from the District. Independent charters must provide their own administrative functions, including human resources, employee benefits, finance, payroll, accounting, and facilities.

By contrast, affiliated charters are “semi-autonomous conversion charter schools that are funded and function similarly to traditional district schools.” In LAUSD, affiliated charters adhere to district policy except for specific areas described in their charters, such as philosophy, curriculum, pedagogy, personnel, or governance. Affiliated charters purchase services from the district, hire LAUSD teachers, and participate in program and professional development offered by the district. Teachers and staff in affiliated charters continue to be members of the district’s collective bargaining units. Affiliated charters do have more site-based freedom over budgeting and educational programming than non-charter schools. They receive free district facilities and the District continues to provide administrative support services.

What does becoming a charter mean for Carpenter?

Our whole objective has been to protect the outstanding programs we have long offered our students and to ensure that Carpenter remains a beacon of excellence in public education in the Studio City community, even in the face of a deep financial crisis. Affiliated charter status does not constitute a dramatic difference in the way we operated previously; it means:

  • Our teachers will maintain union affiliation status;
  • Our school will continue to be funded through the district;
  • We will have enhanced control of school governance and budgeting; and
  • We will have greater control over the curriculum we adopt for our school.

Hasn’t Carpenter’s community always been involved in the school? Was becoming a charter really necessary?

The Carpenter community has been actively involved for the past 20 years and along with the teachers and administration is the reason that the school continues to serve the needs of our children today. We fundraise in order to support enriched programs, up to date science and media labs, and support for teachers and administration. But our vision of Carpenter has never been institutionalized. It has been the vision of our dedicated families and staff, but it has not been formally introduced to LAUSD. Becoming a charter with a stated mission and vision allows the ideals of the school and community to become a cornerstone of the Charter’s development in the future. It preserves the constant interaction between the teachers, administration and community and insures that this practice will continue as Carpenter changes and grows.

What will charter affiliate status give Carpenter that it does not have today?

Affiliated charter status will give Carpenter's key stakeholders greater control over operations at the school. It will ensure consistent leadership, material involvement of all stakeholders with the establishment of an elected Governance Council (similar to our past SSC/LEARN Council), and the ability to manage our limited funds for the best use possible for our school. We will also be able to apply for federally funded LEA grants that we are currently ineligible to apply for. Affiliated charter status will allow our community to have a fundamental role in our school's future, will allow our faculty and staff to bring a more innovative instructional program to our students, and will keep us on a trajectory to achieve even greater success.

Is enrollment now based on a lottery system?

No. Carpenter adheres to the same LAUSD guidelines regarding enrollment and all children are eligible to attend Carpenter if you live within the school's boundaries. In addition, Carpenter will conduct an annual lottery to allow children who live outside the school's boundary to be placed on a waiting list to enroll at Carpenter. In the event there is an opening, the waiting list will be used to fill this position.

When is the lottery held?

Applications for the lottery will be accepted between January and May and a lottery will be conducted sometime in May for the following school year.

Will the school receive additional money?

Each year, the school will receive a categorical block grant, which will be used to fund important student services that were previously cut by LAUSD budget cuts, new curriculum choices, and other charter initiatives.

By becoming an affiliated charter, does this mean that we no longer have to donate money to the PFC?

No. Becoming a charter allows more local control over the budget provided by the state and local school district. These numbers are continually being reduced and will impact our students dramatically without the support of the parents and the community. A charter has access to LEA grants that are designated for charter schools. Since we are not a Title I school, our access to grants (with non charter status) was very limited and would not pay for the programs that are currently in place.

We still need to fundraise to pay for the enrichment programs and other school functions that the district does not provide. T he charter budget may be able to reduce the need for fundraising, but currently we still look to PFC (Parents for Carpenter) and the community to support all of our innovative programs.

How can I get involved?

A great way to engage in the school's future is to become involved in Carpenter's Governance Council, the governing body made up of elected representatives from each of the school’s key constituencies.

You may attend monthly governance meetings (meetings are open to the public), you may nominate yourself to become an elected representative, or you may participate on any number of the committees that will be appointed by the Governance Council.

Why did the school change its name?

In the 2009/2010 school year, the SSC/LEARN appointed a committee to define the mission and vision of Carpenter Avenue School. Midway through that process when it was decided to pursue an affiliated charter application, the two efforts naturally converged. 

Drafting the charter application also gave us the opportunity to think about the name of the school. Rather than simply attaching "Charter" to the name, we proposed modifying the name to Carpenter Community Charter, which takes away the emphasis on the physical street address and instead highlights the fact that the entire community works tirelessly to ensure our children have a superior education. We are excited that a subtle shift in the school's name can mean so much about who we are today and our school's future.

During the summer of 2010, we also adopted a new identity to capture the idea of all of our stakeholders working together to build a great community school. Our new identity system includes the slogan, “Cultivating young minds for a modern world” as a reminder of our shared vision to provide a program that fosters critical thinking, independence and creativity – so all of our children culminate from Carpenter with 21st century skills. I n our new logo, the community border icon figures prominently, symbolic of the collaboration of all stakeholders in delivering a superior education at Carpenter.

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