The Bridge Academy’s days appear to be numbered.
The Las Vegas City Schools on Tuesday voted 3-2 against renewing the charter school’s charter, with board President Elaine Luna casting the deciding vote.
Board members Ramon “Swoops” Montao and Phillip Vigil voted for the school to continue operation, while Luna, Patrick Romero and Philip Leger were against.
Thirty-five students attend the school, which serves ninth- through 12th-graders.
Bridge Academy governing board member Ricky Serna told the Optic after the vote, “What the Las Vegas City Schools and Dr. (Pete) Campos will ultimately find is they will need an alternative school to meet the needs of the students that they have not given a school to tonight.”
After the meeting, Luna said, “We clearly understood from tonight’s meeting that there needs to be an alternative educational process for our students. Based on the information that we received, the questions that we asked and the intensity of this evening’s meeting, I believe that was the decision we needed to make.”
Superintendent Pete Campos, who recommended the charter not be renewed, said it was a difficult decision.
“The intent is that the charter school finish out the school year. We’re aggressively seeking additional resources for them in order for them to meet their obligations for the 2007-08 school year,” he said.
Campos said the district is looking for alternatives for at-risk students to ensure non-traditional students have a place to be educated. He said some of the many concerns included program content and housing for the school.
“We are not going to stop seeking the best possible environment for all of our students in the Las Vegas community,” Campos said.
As Ruben Cordova, the school’s new director, answered a long list of questions, he noted that when he took the helm he was surprised by the look of the school.
“Our school is not the most pleasant place. People probably discard better furniture than we have at our school,” he said.
Patrick Romero said he hated to see kids go to a school where they’re not getting top teachers. However, he said there is a dire need for alternative education.
“I hope and pray our decision today was the best we could come up with,” Romero said.
Bridge Academy co-founder Carol Winkle took exception with Romero’s comment about the school‘s not having top teachers, telling the board both she and her son, Eric, also a teacher at the school, both had their doctorates.
Earlier in the meeting, Bridge students addressed the board, saying the school’s survival was their only hope of getting an education. Cordova said issues like academics and testing were being addressed and board vice president Montao and student board member April Esquibel spoke in favor of the alternative school.
Montao had been one of the critics of the school over the years, but said he saw bright spots with a new administrator in place.
“Past mismanagement has caused a lot of damage to the charter school, but with a new administrator trying to make the changes necessary and students who stressed to me that the only reason they’re in school is because of Bridge Academy I voted for renewal of the charter,” Montao said. “If we would have a long-term plan for them, I would have been a little more comfortable voting it down, but I haven’t received a plan from the board of education saying what we are going to do with those students.”
In an earlier meeting, Esquibel had been tasked by the board to meet with charter school students and take their concerns to the board.
Esquibel said she was impressed with the students she met and didn’t expect their openness.
“When I asked them what they would do if something was to happen to the charter school, 90 percent said they wouldn’t go to school anymore. They said they wouldn’t go to a traditional setting. If we care so much about the kids and we’re telling them we’re not going to have this, they’re saying they will drop out. I think it’s good for them to be there.”
Winkle talked passionately about the school she started, but the vote had been cast.
“We have kids coming to us that are reading at the second- and third-grade level, who have been through the Las Vegas City Schools system,” she said.
Winkle said Bridge students are staying in school and becoming successful, but if they were forced to go into a conventional program, they would get lost.
Winkle said she hoped the district would find some other way to deal with the students now attending Bridge Academy.
“Well good luck, I hope that you can because they deserve a lot more than they’re getting right now,” Winkle said.
Campos said the charter school can appeal the board’s decision.