Charter school under consideration in Peoria

DeWayne Bartels

A charter school can have a future in Peoria, according to Diane Deatherage Pearson.

Sometimes, it just takes persistence.

Pearson, a Peoria native and Richwoods High School graduate, runs a charter school in Kenosha, Wis. She said the first charter school opened in Kenosha in 1994.

“The Kenosha school board did not embrace this concept right away. They didn’t want my school to open in 2000. But, attitudes began to change due to over-crowding,” Pearson said.

“The school board didn’t want it, but the parents did, and they turned the school board around. In Kenosha, charter schools were treated like second-class citizens.”

Pearson said attitudes toward something so new might be sour in Peoria. But, persistence, she added, can change minds.

“I think Peoria would have a positive experience,” Pearson said, “not to mention the federal money that would come to Peoria.”

Mac Pogue agrees.

Pogue is part of a committee investigating the viability of a charter school in Peoria at the Adult Education Center on the corner of Moss and Garfield avenues, formerly known as Washington School.

“Our committee is taking it step-by-step,” Pogue said. 

In August, the District 150 School Board gave superintendent Ken Hinton the go-ahead to begin developing the criteria under which a charter school — proposed as a math, science and technology academy — would operate.

The new school carries an estimated price tag of almost $12 million.

According to the November issue of District 150’s newsletter, “Making the Grade,” the school could open in 2010.

Students throughout the city in fourth-12th grades interested in math, science and technology could apply. A lottery system would be used to fill the 450 slots open.

The district said a longer school day and school year, with opportunities for Saturday instruction, are under consideration.

“The ultimate goal of charter schools is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of high academic achievement for all students,” the newsletter said.