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Carpenter Outlines Its Second Charter Year

Principal Joseph Martinez outlined what it means since the school turned charter-affiliate this year.

l had its first ” meeting for about 75 parents Wednesday night, where outlined challenges and the new curriculum that the elementary school will have next year.

“This is our first-ever ‘State of the Charter’ meeting,” Martiez said. “And we couldn’t do it without the full support of the parents, teachers, staff, local businesses and the entire Studio City community.”

The parents who helped change the name from “” to “” also helped make the presentation.

“Changing the name to include ‘Community’ was a very important part of this,” explained , one of the parent co-signers to the charter-affiliate application.

For the next 90 minutes, parents were not only shown the benefits and setbacks of the public school becoming a charter-affiliate school with the Los Angeles Unified School District, but also showed some of the sample student questions and how they get solved.

“We have a mandate to be innovative and to get kids excited about learning,” Martinez said about the five-year plan the charter team came up with for the school. “We have more site-based freedom and we will be accountable for student successes.”

Carpenter is affected by LAUSD budget cuts, too, but the school can decide to keep arts programs that may be cut in other schools, and keep class sizes smaller than in the rest of the district.

“Our dance program may be learning square dancing while the students are studying American history,” Martinez said.

The school received a $285,000 block grant instead of the $72,000 in discretionary money they received before becoming charter. With that, the school must decide how to spend the money. But there are items such as the $125-per-student for Gifted Student testing that the district will no longer pay for.

The school gets about $318 per student in taxpayer money, and enrollment increased from 847 to 893 this year (it peaked at 901 at the beginning of the year, but some students moved away.)

“We have 250 students on the waiting list to get into the school,” said Martinez, who is scheduling a New Parent Orientation at the school on Thursday, and plans a lottery next week to pick new students for the school.

Being a charter school allowed more autonomy in picking new teachers, and two new ones were hired. But, it doesn’t prevent the LAUSD notices that were sent out to 11 teachers, nearly one-third of their staff.  (Union negotiations underway right now may prevent some of those lay-offs.)

 Class sizes projected to be up to 39-per-teacher in fourth or fifth graders district wide will be down to 26-to-1 for fourth graders and 32-to-1 for fifth graders.

The district is already cutting the nurse to every other week, and is cutting the and youth services after school programs. The school is funding the library position half-time and depending more on parent volunteers.

A school-wide supplemental program called Writing from the Beginning has proved an overwhelming success, and they showed video clips from three students, from first, third and fifth grades, to show their writing projects.

The students showed how they outlined their stories with boxes and then did a rough draft. “It helped a lot in organizing my story,” said Olivia Rubin, a fifth grader.

Parents were also shown examples of Singapore Math, which is a successful style of teaching math problems. Martinez, who was once a math coach, himself plans to attend a five-day seminar on Singapore math over the summer with two other teachers.

Martinez also talked about their intense safety program, and how well it worked with the recent police lockdown, where his phone call blasts reached 1,292 parents, or 91.3 percent of all parents via cell phones, landlines and emails.

“It was the safest place for your children to be, with dozens of police officers around the campus,” Martinez said.

But, charter affiliates had $85,000 taken away from them recently, which could mean the loss of one fulltime position.

“What is great is that the parents can get involved and be involved and be part of the decision making where that money goes,” said PTA president Andrew Barrett.  “Some of our parents do not speak English, and some still don’t have jobs in this economic downturn.”

Carpenter asks parents to contribute $600 per family, and have had nearly half of the parents offer contributions. The school is planning their big fundraiser dinner dance and auction, this year with a Spy theme, on May 14.

“It’s not just money that the families contribute,” Barrett said. “We’ve calculated that parents have donated about 48,000 hours of volunteer time this year. And that is remarkable.”

Lori Belateche April 28, 2011 at 01:34 PM
The science lab is also supported by the school and the parents. Since the science lab was developed, the CST scores of 5th graders taking the science test have increased every year. My son attended Carpenter and I am still there teaching science in the lab. It is a great place to be.
Arnold Darrow April 29, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Those signs by local businesses on the chain link fence along Laurel Canyon Blvd. really look tacky, however. Can something be done about that? It's a blight on the neighborhood!

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