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School Proponents Seek Parent Interest
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A score of local schoolteachers held a first public meeting Saturday afternoon to inform the public of their proposal to set up a charter school. The Masonic Hall meeting drew only a handful of parents but organizers promised more publicity and further meetings to draw parent participation.

Richard Beatty, a Riverbank High teacher and the current Riverbank Teachers Association president, and Gail Forest, a teacher at California Avenue Elementary School, told participants the current public educational system is failing and charter schools are a possible solution.

Seeking unrealistic standards, the federal No Child Left Behind Act is forcing teachers, trustees and schools to focus on reading, writing, math and test scores in these subjects alone to the detriment and elimination of electives such as science, history, arts and even athletics, proponents of the charter school noted.

Expected to follow scripts and teach by rote, teachers are becoming frustrated and angry. Students are losing their natural intellectual curiosity and becoming bored, according to Beatty and Forest.

A Better Way Charter School, as it tentatively named, will follow in the path of Riverbank Language Academy, founded three years ago, but aim initially at a K-6 curriculum and not be based on a dual language immersion program.

Charter schools are independent public schools that are free to the parent and funded by the state just like the conventional public school. But they are exempt from almost all the California Educational Code requirements and able to offer rigorous curriculum programs combined with unique educational approaches.

Beatty said a charter school will not necessarily drain Riverbank district schools of their students - it can draw pupils from outside besides inside the district. Organizers have talked informally to Riverbank district trustees and the trustees say it is up to the parents to decide whether they want another charter school, he added.

Beatty can be contacted by e-mail at and Forest at For more information, there is also a web site at