Founders of a proposed charter school for the visual and performing arts dropped off their petition at the Lodi Unified School District office this week with hopes the school board will approve its opening.
The application will be reviewed in-house by district staff before possibly being going to the school board. Trustees make the ultimate determination whether a charter school can open within the district, and must do so within 60 days, according to state education law.
If approved, it would open next school year and draw from the Lodi, Stockton and Galt areas to help fill the void caused by local districts cutting visual and performing arts programs, according to school spokesman Rick Brewer.
"There are a ton of students out there that art for them may very well be what football is to other students," said Brewer, one of the school's leaders.
The proposed school will be called "D-MAND: A School for the Arts." D-MAND is the acronym for Drama, Music, Art and Dance, the four artistic disciplines the school will offer in addition to all core academic courses.
Its founders feel lesson plans can be written to infuse arts into the core curriculum. For example, literature students may read a Shakespearean play then paint the stage sets before ultimately acting it out.
"The team we have put together has a lot of experience doing this sort of things already," Brewer said.
Many public school districts, including Lodi Unified and the Galt districts, have seen the need to drastically reduce, and in some cases eliminate, arts classes and teachers from their budgets.
In fact, many of the state's 22,000 teachers who received pink slips earlier this year were those with credentials in various artistic subjects.
That was the case for Galt Joint Union High School District's sole drama teacher, James Nunes, and one of the reasons D-MAND was founded. After he received one of more than a dozen pink slips last spring, he and Brewer reconnected and began talking about starting a charter, Brewer said.
"We don't believe arts are expendable," he added. "There are experienced, dedicated staff there, and there's got to be a place where they can ply their trade."
Among the other members of the school's steering committee are Jack Bray, one of the finalists for former Lodi Unified trustee Harvey Bills' position when the board was going to appoint a replacement. He has more than 50 years of education experience, most recently as a private school consultant.
Brewer, a former Stockton Record reporter, has been a teacher and most recently worked in the Stockton Unified School District public relations department. Others include George Mosher Elementary School teacher James Kooren; Melda Gaskins, who helped form the Visionary Institute of Math and Science Educational Group to open charter schools throughout Northern California with focus in the arts, math and sciences; and Robert Krantz, a fixture for 15 years as the lighting and sound-board operator for the Night Time Live jazz concerts at Hutchins Street Square. He is currently working with a new jazz series at the Wine and Roses restaurant in Lodi.
There are more than 1,250 charter schools in California, according to the state department of education. Five are operating under a charter secured with Lodi Unified, including Rio Valley Charter School, which officially opened Monday.
Lodi Unified Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer confirmed receipt of the petition on Tuesday and said it would go through the same process past proposals have undergone, per board policy.
Brewer feels the proposal will be successful due to its unique approach.
D-MAND plans to open next July with an independent study section for kindergartners through fourth-grade students, and a site-based program for students in fifth through eighth grades. It will add ninth grade in 2012, 10th in 2011 and so forth through 2015, when the school will cover all primary and secondary grades, according to the proposal.
Students in the independent study group will receive twice weekly on-campus arts instruction, while all others will receive daily arts instruction. High school students will choose from one of the four disciplines to study in an academy-style small learning community.
Founders of the school will hold a series of community meetings next month where the steering committee and board of directors will introduce the research behind the decision to open the school. The first is scheduled for Sept. 14 at Katzakian Park on Turner Road.; Sept. 21 at the Lodi Public Library, 201 W. Locust St.; and Sept. 23 at Chabolla Community Center, 600 Chabolla Ave., in Galt. All three begin at 6:30 p.m.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.