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Charter school officials finally open up

by Krystal Paco

Guam - Guahan Academy Charter School officials may have kept hush before lawmakers at an oversight hearing held last month, but they were an open book today.

They're the first of their kind on island and they've only been in operation since august, but the Guahan Academy Charter School has plenty of progress to report.

At today's meeting before representatives from the Committee on Education as well as a member of the Guam Charter School Council, GACS officials presented an overview of the school whose motto is "Guam's First Choice in Education."

According to CEO and principal Donna Dwiggins, direct instruction drives the curriculum for the 515-student population. Although many may argue that DI is already implemented in DOE schools, Dwiggins says a charter school allows for more focused effort that provides for classtime committed to annual growth as well as catch up time for students who fall behind. "In taking it and moving it into a charter school atmosphere it allows you control over those variables that you didn't have control over when you're the outside consultant trying to help a school," she said.

She notes that each of the school's 50 employees are committed to DI and were signed on to the new school with performance based contracts. She adds that contract renewals are dependent on their performance this school year.

"They're all here because they ascribe to the same philosophy and that makes a real significant difference in the kinds of interventions you can bring the kids," she said.

And while they've been subject to scrutiny from members of the Guam Education Board and lawmakers in recent months, charter school board member George Bamba admits, it's been a leap of faith for all parties involved.

"Whether it works on Guam it's the first time it's the first charter school we knew there were going to be challenges it's a leap of faith and really what's driving it is what can we do to best educate and serve our students," he said.

Senator Aline Yamashita says that despite last month's tense oversight hearing with GACS officials deferring all questions to their attorney, she's grateful for their cooperation since.

She notes that they've opened communication lines and have been submitting requested documents to her and Speaker Judi Won Pat's offices in addition to hosting today's meeting.

She said, "One was to ensure that we started healing the relationship two to get an overview of the student demographics and a sense of the programming efforts that are in place and I believe that we got more than we wanted in the second part and then third was to get the assurance that as you know documents are coming in that we continue to ensure that those documents are coming in."

An oversight hearing will be scheduled for early next year.

Meanwhile, Dwiggins says there are still plans to expand the school by adding a grade every school year, but that would be dependent on funding and demand. She adds they're also looking for other funding sources to add a pre-school.

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