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May 22, 2002

State Superintendent Seeks Court Intervention For Approval of Bridge Academy Charter School

(Santa Fe, NM)- District Court Judge Art Encinias has ordered the Las Vegas City Board of Education to approve the charter application for Bridge Academy Charter School "forthwith and without delay" or appear in his court on Friday, May 24, at 4:00 p.m., on the second floor of the Judge Steve Herrera Judicial Complex, located at Grant and Catron Streets in Santa Fe, to explain its actions in not approving the charter. The judge's order, issued yesterday, was in response to a petition filed on Monday, by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael J. Davis, acting on behalf of the New Mexico State Board of Education (SBE), requesting the court to order the local board to approve the charter.

The SBE voted on March 1 to remand the charter school to the local board for approval. The state Charter Schools Act requires local school boards to approve charters when directed to do so by the SBE. The local board voted on March 19 not to accept the remand.

"The Las Vegas City Schools Board of Education has defied a proper order of the State Board of Education. At the State Board's direction, I have sought legal relief to get the order expeditiously enforced," said State Superintendent Davis.

Dr. Carol Winkel, the principal organizer of the charter school, applied to the local board on September 28, 2001, for a charter to operate the Bridge Academy Charter School. On November 20, the board voted unanimously to deny the charter. Dr. Winkel then appealed to the SBE on December 4 regarding the denial of the charter application.

At its regular meeting on January 14, 2002, the SBE heard presentations regarding the charter application from New Mexico State Department of Education staff, Dr. Winkel and local board representatives and decided to seek additional input from the West Las Vegas Public Schools board before making a final decision. The SBE heard the views of the West Las Vegas Public Schools on March 1, before acting by majority vote to reverse the local board's decision.

"The local school board has not articulated any legal reason for refusing to approve the charter as required by the Charter Schools Act and it has actively refused, without just cause or excuse, to perform its duty by granting the charter," said State Superintendent Davis. "Charter schools offer choices and alternatives for parents and students and represent new ways to improve outcomes for public school children. The charter of the Bridge Academy Charter School is legitimate, the State Board approved it in March and it is our intention that the charter school will be approved to serve children in the fall of 2002," he said.