Collaboration between traditional public and charter schools is critical

Several superintendents from different parts of the country told an audience at the National Alliance For Public Charter Schools conference that it is critical charter schools and traditional public schools work together to meet the needs of all students.

Pedro Martinez, superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District, said it is important leaders do not get bogged down in philosophical debates.

“Let’s focus on what matters,” Martinez said. “How do we create options that are inclusive?”

The superintendents were speaking on a panel about how they have been able to overcome obstacles and work together with charters.  The discussion centered around three principles key to advancing choice: equitable access; transparent indicators of quality and equitable funding. But the superintendents acknowledged in working together, there were challenges that may impede that progress.

“One of the challenges we are facing is that there is a level of rivalry and competition across the schools, and it impedes collaboration,” said Tom Boasberg, superintendent of Denver Public Schools. “The amount of cross-training between district and charter teachers is not where I would like it to be.”

Martinez agreed. Unfortunately, he said, district-charter politics are “becoming more polarized.”

Martinez emphasized that all each schools’ mission is focused on equity for all students.

“It is about changing the conversation and limiting bureaucracy,” he said.

Kunjan Narechania, the chief operating officer at the Louisiana Department of Education, said when charters and traditional public schools work together, they “build a system on equity and choice.”

Boasberg said he has a strong belief that his public school district is better by having both charter and district schools.

“We work together,” he said. “We collaborate together.”

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