The organizers behind a new charter school in Alameda's West End now are asking county officials to approve their application after the Alameda school board turned the group down.

County officials already have carried out a preliminary review of the application, and a public hearing is expected to take place early next month, according to Paul Bentz, the CEO of Community Learning Schools Inc.

The proposed campus would serve students in kindergarten through 12th grade and would be a sister campus of the Alameda Community Learning Center, which is located at Encinal High School.

Supporters of the application point to the Alameda center's success -- state officials named it a California Distinguished School last year -- as a reason to rally behind the new charter school.

But in January, district trustees questioned whether the current charter's model would work with younger children, with board member David Forbes calling the lack of background information on the issue an "egregious deficiency" in the application.

Trustees unanimously voted against it, prompting the charter school's supporters to file an appeal Feb. 5 with Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan.

"I've always felt that there was nothing wrong with our charter," Bentz said last week. "The charter itself isn't flawed. It's the charter process that's flawed."

What undercuts the process, he said, is that the agency that votes on the application also competes with the charter school for students and other resources.


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"That's not right," Bentz said.

The appeal comes as the Alameda school board is considering another charter application. The Renaissance Leadership Academy would serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade and its organizers also hope to open in the city's West End.

During a public hearing in January, however, trustees seemed wary about the idea, noting that two charter schools already exist in the neighborhood, including the Alameda Community Learning Center.

Much of the instruction at the charter school on the Encinal campus is peer-driven, with older students mixing with younger students, who have a say in how the center is run. The school opened in 1996.

The idea of opening a sister campus sparked a flurry of debate among bloggers and others before the school board considered it, with some saying the learning center serves mostly white students and does not reflect the ethnic makeup of the district.

Bentz said the new school, which would be called the Nea Community Learning Center, is still attracting interest.

As of Wednesday, 191 people have applied. That's at least 20 more than when the charter was before trustees, according to organizers.

No location for the Nea campus has been selected, but supporters were eyeing one of the district's three closed elementary school sites until officials turned them down.

Among those who backed the application was PTA Council President Trish Spencer, who said an additional charter school would give parents more choice.

Reach Peter Hegarty at phegarty@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-748-1654.

For info

Parents interested in learning more about the charter school proposed in Alameda's West End can attend a Community Information Night. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Alameda Community Learning Center, 210 Central Ave.