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COMMENTARY

A charter for success

By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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I like the idea of innovation and trying new things. It’s the engine of invention and greater efficiency. “Too big to fail” is too often an attempt to restart the stalled engine of complacency.

For that reason, I welcomed the opportunity to visit Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, a charter high school in Rocklin now in its fourth year. My second motive was to meet with its new athletic director and an old acquaintance of mine – Mike Wells.

I met Mike when he was the head football coach and eventual athletic director at Rocklin High School during my first stint as the sports editor of the Placer Herald. After later going our separate ways, it was intriguing to find ourselves back in the same or similar positions nearly two decades later.

Charter schools are an alternative to public schools and not an attempt to replace them; both provide opportunities in education with the concept that one size does not fit all. Certain students do better in one than they do in the other offering a choice for maximum achievement.

I cover three public high schools and would highly recommend all three. In fact, my daughter will be attending one next year. I won’t say where, but I think she will do well there because it is a good fit for her personality and academic profile.

We actually enrolled her in a charter school years ago and she didn’t do well in that setting. Not all kids do but it’s great to have a choice.

Participation in sports can be a motive for some and help certain students to do better in the classroom; that’s true for both public and charter schools. Depending on an athlete’s skill level, having a choice can help a student have a meaningful high school career whether it be in academics, sports or both.

Students tend to consider two things when entering prep school; will he or she do well in the classroom and will he or she get a chance to participate in sports if desired?

When balancing the two, the student/athlete must determine what will best prepare him or her for the future. If they’re good students and accomplished athletes, public school would tend to serve them best. It’s likely such a student would succeed in both the classroom and on the athletic field.

If the student/athlete isn’t accomplished in one, or both, charter school might serve them best. Charter schools tend to have smaller class sizes and offer a greater chance of making the cut when trying out for a sport.

That doesn’t mean the level of interscholastic competition will necessarily be less. And for that reason, charter athletes can compete for scholarships just as athletes do in public school. The deciding factor is often the student/athlete’s grade-point average.

I think Wells will do well at Western Sierra because he understands that concept. He demonstrated that when one of the academy’s students told him he was transferring to public school in order to play football. Wells wished the student success and did not try to dissuade him.

If there are existing barriers between public and charter schools, I hope they soon come down. Cooperation with disregard for all but a student’s ultimate success is a lesson we would all do well to learn.