Archive for August, 2006

Charter school will provide alternatives

August 15, 2006

(Appearing in Daily News, Letters to the Editor, 8/15/06)
Our kids will go back to school soon. Every year there seems to be more government regulations, more standardized testing, more of an effort to squeeze our kids out of their childhood and onto the assembly line. In Moscow we’re fortunate to have a good school district, but there are limits to how much they can innovate or modify their program to offer alternatives for families who want them.

A group of local educators, community members, and advisers have come together to design a new public charter school in Moscow based on the Expeditionary Learning model. We are committed to creating a small, public K-eighth-grade charter school based on the love of learning, yet grounded in the basics and built on a solid business foundation. Expeditionary Learning is about returning learning to being about what kids need, not about what adults need, and we believe it can prosper here in Moscow.

A charter school is a public school that can be overseen by the local school district or by a state agency. We’re asking the Moscow School Board to approve our petition to create a new school so that we can maintain local oversight. The school board will hold a public meeting to discuss the merits of this petition at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Moscow Junior High School Music Room. As chairman of the board organizing this new school, I invite area families who are interested in creating an exciting educational alternative in town to show their support at this meeting.

Bill Rivers, Viola


New charter school being proposed for Moscow

August 15, 2006

By Kate Baldwin, Daily News staff writer
Published: 08-15-2006

Bill Rivers is trying to bring a new charter school — the Palouse Prairie School — to Moscow, but he knows that the failed Renaissance Public Charter School is still on people’s minds.If there was a good thing about the Renaissance Public Charter School closing, he said “it allowed us to redefine our charter based upon the things that didn’t work there.”

“We tried to take all those lessons to heart and we tried to put those into our charter in a better way,” said Rivers, chairman of the Palouse Prairie School board.

Rivers and his board members will try to allay concerns when they review their plans during a public meeting Thursday.

“A lot of people still don’t understand charter schools,” Rivers said. “I think there will be some explanation of what is this and how does it work.”

Charter schools are public schools that receive state funding for each pupil like a typical public school. The meeting is part of the required procedure for establishing a new charter school within the state.

The Palouse Prairie School submitted a petition this summer to the Moscow School District asking it to be its charter authorizer. The designation would make the district responsible for overseeing the charter school and making sure it fulfills the terms of its charter. This can be done with annual reports, onsite reviews and visitations, among other things.

The Moscow School Board will have 60 days to review the petition and make a decision. If the board decides not to accept responsibility, the charter school can submit a petition directly to the State Department of Education to be its charter authorizer.

The district already supervises the Moscow Charter School, which has a focus on technology and the performing arts. It also had supervised the Renaissance Public Charter School, which closed due to problems with governance.

“Obviously, the sooner we can (get approval) the better, because next school year we hope to be up and running,” said Olle Pellmyr, a parent and board member.

Pellmyr said he hopes to work with the Moscow School District because it has tremendous experience that can be shared through a collaboration.

“We should be self-sufficient,” he said. “But we want the best relationship possible with the public school district since we’re just another public school.”

The Palouse Prairie School will serve students in kindergarten through sixth grade, with plans to eventually include seventh and eighth grades. It would use the Expeditionary Learning ­Outward Bound model of education, which uses real-world projects to let students participate in research-based learning that has community outcomes.

The failed Renaissance Public Charter School also was an ELOB school, but Rivers said there are more than 140 successful ELOB schools across the country, some of which are located in the state.

Pellmyr, who is a research scientist, said he has confidence in the model because it has been tested. He also likes its flexibility.

“In many ways, it’s less regimental,” he said. “It puts a strong emphasis on collaboration and it works across the grades. It makes teaching realistic and takes it out to the community.”

Charter school benefits can include a different learning model for students and typically smaller classroom sizes.

There are concerns about how the school could impact existing schools. Drawbacks of a charter school may include a potential decline in enrollment for the hosting district and problems that can arise if a charter school is closed.

Moscow School District Superintendent Candis Donicht said enrollment is an important issue.

“It depends on where the kids come from,” she said. “If the kids were all previously homeschooled, then it doesn’t impact the school district. If they were attending here, we would no longer have them on our rolls and they would be transferred to the charter school.”

When a student transfers, state funding for that student transfers with the student. Because this point creates some obstacles in gaining support, Rivers argues in favor of more learning options.

“This school does not pull any children from any school district. Parents do,” Rivers said. “They are doing that of their own free will because they are looking for something different than what is currently being offered.”

As news of the meeting and the school spreads, Rivers said more people are asking for information.

Donicht said people have been stopping by the district office to pick up copies of the charter.

“We’ll open the doors and see who comes out,” she said.


* WHAT: Public Meeting on the proposal for Palouse Prairie School

* WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday

* WHERE: Moscow Junior High School Music Room

* CONTACT: Moscow School District at (208) 882-1120 for more information.

Kate Baldwin can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 239, or by e-mail at

WSU mySites Launched

August 15, 2006

Peterson, Nils’s Home (WSU Network ID login required)

Its been a long time coming, the personalization of myWSU to allow end users to really build a web world for themselves and even better, make it a collaborative world with users they select.

Using Microsoft SharePoint mySites we are finally getting there.  Today marks the launch of WSU mySites, billed as an extension to myWSU portal that provide all current students and current employees with a mySite associated with their Network ID login.

The next challenge is to market this potential to the student body and to achieve some of its potential to empower and enhance learning.