GMG - Las Vegas Weekly

September 12, 2013

Las Vegas Weekly

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school with parents, professionals and teachers. They modeled it after Williamsburg, which would be its Educational Management Organization, providing curriculum and 30 percent of the teachers. "There's such an environment of respect that everybody is free to share. They don't all come out thinking the same," Blake said Valerie Blake of the Williamsburg platform. "I would love to go back to school this way." From April to November 2012, the committee worked on the charter for the Leadership Academy of Nevada, laying out every detail of the school from mission to bylaws, budget to academic calendar. Kleven, who is office manager for the school, said they did it "on a shoestring," hiring a consultant to review just the special education component. It cost $2,000 to compile and mail. Leasing an office, hiring teachers, paying for insurance and other necessaries added up to another $90,000. Williamsburg fronted some of the money, and the rest came from personal loans taken out by committee members. "The banks that typically lend to charter schools don't lend to startup schools. They want to see that you're operating ... because if they lend to us and we don't open, then what happens?" Kleven said. At the time there were no state seed funds available (Kleven said an account has since been funded with $750,000 for startup schools), so they had almost no budget for promotion. Another roadblock was an old administrative code that prohibits new charter schools from enrolling until 120 days before opening, a constraint Kleven said negated peak signup times. So Leadership Academy relied on opportunities to meet with families, as they did at an open house in early August—just before they had to submit their enrollment number to the state. Their charter application estimated 180. They had 50. Over doughnuts in a portable classroom, Ure made a case for the new school by showing videos of Williamsburg's virtual classroom. Online education has a reputation for being sterile and passive, but students debating, presenting and taking tests in a Skype-like format appeared enthusiastic and fully engaged, whether the topic was the landmark Hazelwood case on freedom of speech or Bastiat's take on legal plunder. "One of the biggest crises in education in America is that youth are underwhelmed," Ure said. "They don't know what they're capable of." The clincher was Taylor Lurie, an incredibly articulate 17-year-old who left a local magnet school after her freshman year. She said she had tons of friends and top grades, yet she "lost all joy in school." So she dropped out, a decision she said almost gave her father a heart attack. "It was honestly terrifying," Lurie said, adding that it took one class with Williamsburg to convince her that she made the right choice. She touted the practice of reading opposing masterworks and drawing her own conclusions, collaborative seminars packing double the learning into half the time and a vibe that lets teens be their quirky selves. "The thing that's really unique about this school is, everyone who's in it wants to be there," she said, sharing her excitement for the Leadership Academy to build on that concept. Listening to Lurie and her daughter Maura talk up the school, Kleven couldn't believe it wasn't dealing with a waiting list. As a homeschooler, she understands how unnerving it is to experiment with education. The stakes are incredibly high. "Parents want a different result for their children, but they're not willing to make that educational change. And part of that is that educational options are so new here," she said. "They want to know what it's going to look like on the other end before they take that leap." On August 23, the charter authority deferred Leadership Academy's application, granting another year of startup status in which to set and reach a more reasonable enrollment goal. That's the nature of startups. Kleven said the focus is on fundraising and refining. In a letter to families, Blake wrote: "The day will come when we will look back on this experience and recognize it as an essential step in the development of this extraordinary charter school." [continued on Page 22] SLEEP, STUDY, PLAY To create a real campus, UNLV needs students to live where they learn UNLV has an image problem. As soon as the final classes let out, students scuttle away in their cars and on bikes, leaving behind darkened buildings and an eerily quiet campus. Save for the occasional basketball game, UNLV offers few reasons for students to stick around after hours. President Neal Smatresk wants to change all that. Over the past two years, Smatresk has pushed for a new campus master plan that calls for an on-campus football stadium, new apartment-style dorms and a "student village" that would transform UNLV into a full-fledged residential college. If UNLV can shed its commuter image, the university can attract more faculty, staff and students and build a stronger connection with students that could translate into higher alumni giving. A vibrant UNLV campus could also offer more nighttime and weekend events to the local community. Already, UNLV's refurbished dorms have students flocking back to campus, and new plans for a five-story apartment-style dorm—called Midtown Park—has the university buzzing. For now, however, the campus is a work in progress. Here's a by-the-numbers look at how that work is going: 1,650 Number of on-campus residents at UNLV this year, up 500 students from last year. 100 Number of UNLV students on a waiting list for dorms, the first waiting list since the recession. 6 MABEL HOGGARD MATH AND SCIENCE MAGNET ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Mabel Hoggard, Clark County School District's first elementary magnet school, has been recognized by the district as a five-star school and was one of five schools in the nation named as a Magnet Schools of America 2013 Merit Winner for "high academic standards, curriculum innovation, successful desegregation and diversity efforts and strong parent and community involvement." The school has indoor and outdoor laboratory programs and its own small "zoo," with more than 50 animals for hands-on learning. 18-21_Feature_20130912.indd 21 VETERANS TRIBUTE CAREER & TECHNICAL ACADEMY While Rancho High is known for its aviation and aerospace programs, complete with pilot training, the Veterans Tribute Career & Technical Academy prepares students for careers in law enforcement and other areas of public service. Only in its fifth year (the first graduating class was in 2012), it's too early to track the graduates post-high school, but each of its 740 students are in EMT or law enforcement programs that offer an onsite emergency dispatch training center, courses in crime scene investigation and forensic science. –Kristen Peterson Percent of UNLV students who live on-campus. $3,134 Average per-semester cost of on-campus housing at UNLV. 3,000 Number of beds the new Midtown Park project is expected to add on campus. $175 MILLION Cost of Midtown Park, which will bring 550 one- to three-bedroom apartments to campus. –Paul Takahashi 9/11/13 4:31 PM

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