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Editorial: Time for charter, school district to bury hatchet

Editorial: Time for charter, school district to bury hatchet

Cooperate on transition in the interest of Schenectady's kids

There was bad blood between the Schenectady City School District and International Charter School even before the charter opened in 2002, and now that the school is closing it comes as no surprise that charter officials are in no mood to cooperate with the school district, which wants permission to make a pitch for the charter’s students at a parents meeting next Wednesday.

The charter officials’ attitude is understandable, given how the school district worked to undermine their efforts from the get-go. Indeed, its campaign hasn’t stopped: A few weeks ago, Superintendent Eric Ely announced the district was suing the charter for millions of dollars in state aid — money from the school district’s pocket — that he claims the charter wasn’t entitled to this year. And when he found out that the charter is balking over the district participating in its meeting to help parents find new schools for their children next year, he remarked, with rhetorical excess, “I find it absolutely reprehensible.”

Someone needs to tell these people — on both sides — that the war is over. They may dislike each other, but at this point — at least as far as this issue is concerned — their refusal to cooperate with one another is going to hurt the students more than anyone else.

Charter parents need to know about the options available to them next year, and, like it or not, the city school district is one of them. They may be more attracted to options like charter schools in Albany or parochial schools, but these may be impractical due to transportation or tuition issues. Thus, they need to hear what the school district has to offer, and who knows? It may be different than what it has offered in the past.

In fact, the district has been talking with the state about using the charter’s school building (located just outside city limits in the Mohonasen district) to open a new school. Doing so would seem a logical step — if not at the charter building then at one of the closed parochial school buildings in Schenectady — given the overcrowded conditions in many of the district’s schools. The last thing the district needs at the moment is 500 new students. But it could surely use the roughly $5 million in state aid the students would bring.

Thus if it wants these kids, the district has to come up with a suitable alternative, and fast — already, about 100 charter parents have applied for spaces in one of the district’s magnet schools. And once it has a plan (ideally by next Wednesday), the charter school should invite it to make a presentation at its forum.

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