Not a ‘charter versus district’ issue: A discussion with several leaders of local charter schools | St. Louis Public Radio

Not a ‘charter versus district’ issue: A discussion with several leaders of local charter schools

Sep 18, 2018

For students in underserved school districts, charter schools can prove to be an important educational option. Some charter schools fail, but others thrive.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with leaders of three St. Louis charter schools about how they have sought to achieve success and what charter schools have to offer local communities.

Joining the discussion were Stella Erondu, founding principal of Northside Community School and current principal of Grand Center Middle School, and Engin Blackstone, Concept Schools Regional Superintendent of Gateway Science Academy of St. Louis.

When asked about the necessity of charter schools, Erondu said, “I don’t think we need charter schools per se – we need good schools. Charter schools came about because students were failing.”

Christie Huck, executive director of City Garden Montessori Charter School, also joined the conversation. She explained how racial and economic segregation in her south city neighborhood led to “desperate” educational outcomes, which led to a need for charter schools.

She added that any family with a child entering kindergarten can apply to City Garden Montessori and is then potentially selected through a public, random lottery.

Addressing concerns

The panel addressed some common complaints and concerns public schools have about charter schools, such as the idea that charter schools reject certain applicants if they do not meet their requirements.

“Charter schools are public schools; we do not have any specific enrollment criteria. The students we have [are] on all spectrums,” Blackstone said. “Our goal is to provide and meet their needs at their own level.”

He also noted that charter schools are sponsored by other institutions, such as universities and held to high standards.

“Accountability is a big thing,” Blackstone added.

Huck said she doesn’t want to diminish the concern that charter schools are pulling kids away from their school districts, but also reiterated that the matter shouldn’t be a “charter versus district” issue.

“I think we get caught up in this either/or scarcity mindset. We really need to broaden our thinking and conviction to really try to make sure all kids, and particularly our most vulnerable children, have access to great education.” Huck said. “Charter schools are one way to do that.”

 St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie HemphillLara HamdanCaitlin Lally and Xandra Ellin give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.