IM this article to a friend!

July 15, 2003

Charter school enters new phase

From: Appleton Post Crescent, WI - Jul 15, 2003

By Kathy Walsh Nufer
Post-Crescent staff writer

APPLETON — An Appleton teacher will explore starting a bilingual, bicultural charter school that uses American Sign Language to teach deaf and hard-of-hearing pupils as well as their hearing peers.

The Board of Education gave the go-ahead Monday for Curtis Fuller to apply for a $10,000 state charter planning grant, but not before Supt. Tom Scullen clarified that Fuller’s idea would not replace current district programming for deaf students.

“This is not designed to compete with any existing programs,” Scullen said after Edison Elementary School reading specialist Mary Lee Powell questioned the proposal.

Powell said Edison already offers a program serving 12 deaf and hard-of-hearing children. There are interpreters at every grade level, she said, and several staff and a number of hearing children use sign language — a version other than the more conceptual ASL — to communicate.

“Please take a look at schools you already do have, and the good things already being done,” she said.

Charter schools are public schools allowed to waive certain state regulations in order to pursue education innovations. Appleton already has 10 started.

Assistant Supt. Linda Dawson said the grant is an opportunity to research the plan’s pros and cons.

Board member Diane Barkmeier pointed out that Fuller, a special education teacher at McKinley Elementary School in Appleton, has a proposal that would stress both ASL and deaf culture. “Not all parents would choose that, just like others might not choose Signed English at Edison.”

She agreed with Powell that the district should be careful in how it proceeds, “but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look into it.”

Parent Lisa Cuff is interested in enrolling her hearing daughter. “Learning ASL would be just as valuable for her as learning Spanish,” she said.

Copyright © 2003 Appleton Post Crescent