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May 20, 2004

Charter school for the deaf approved

From: Providence Journal, RI - May 20, 2004

The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The state Board of Education has approved two charter schools - one in Concord for the deaf and another in Dover focusing on arts and technology.

The board on Wednesday denied a charter for the Concord Academy and tabled the Three Governors Charter School proposal by the Institute for Holistic Health in Epping. The board wanted more answers to questions it has about whether state law allows a public school to be operated on the site of a religious institution.

The board voted unanimously to approve applications by the Cocheco Arts and Technology Academy in Dover and the Laurent Clerc Academy in Concord.

There are now six approved charter schools in the state. Each qualifies for state education aid of $3,600 per pupil, which would have gone to the public school district in which each student resides.

The board voted to make the approvals conditional on submission of three pieces of information: national background checks on applicants, resumes of the parties involved, and letters of recommendation.

Cocheco plans to open this fall with about 40 students, and will offer a combination of academics and immersion programs in the fine and performing arts, along with arts technology.

Laurent Clerc also plans to open this fall, with between 10 and 15 students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Susan Wolf-Downes said there are 70 profoundly deaf students in New Hampshire and 500 who are mildly hearing impaired.

Concord Academy would have run grades K-7 and grades 9-10 in the fall.

Christine Suarez, a member of the Concord Academy board, said she will discuss the denial with other board members and decide the next step. She said she favors an appeal. State law allows the school to return to the state board next year.

Board members said they were concerned about published reports on the background of Ed Kruger, who led the Concord Academy effort. They had questions about his role at charter schools in Utah and Wyoming.

Board member William Boc said he was concerned about a perceived atmosphere of acrimony between the charter school and the Concord community.

Kruger said he is not trying to create a Concord school, but to attract students from the region around the city. He said parent response has been overwhelming in the short amount of time he has been working on the school.

The board asked Pandit Ramsamooj of the Institute for Holistic Health to return when the board meets again next month. Ramsamooj, who has developed and piloted a greatly accelerated academic program that starts in kindergarten and runs through high school, is a Hindu priest and robotics engineer.

Ramsamooj insisted that the school itself is not religious in nature, but offers philosophy courses and motivational instruction.

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