DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

August 1, 2013

Area could see two more charter schools

By Doug ireland
direland@derrynews.com

---- — Two new charter schools are expected to open their doors soon to students in Southern New Hampshire.

The state Board of Education granted approval recently for The Founders Academy, a middle school that will open in the Londonderry area in January, state board Chairman Thomas Raffio said.

This month, the board will consider a proposed school in Derry — Granite State Academy for the Arts.

Raffio said he doesn’t see any obstacles that would prevent Granite State Academy from opening in August 2014. The high school would provide an arts-oriented education for up to 160 students, according to academy Chairman Wendie Leweck.

“They have said they are in support of our school,” Leweck said of the board.

The two academies are among four charter school proposals given new life when more than $3 million was recently approved as part of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s $245 million capital budget.

The state board decided last fall to not consider anymore charter schools because no funding was available. There are 17 across the state, with an 18th — Next School in Derry — to open this fall.

The Founders Academy received approval for up to 200 students, but is expected to open with about 100 in sixth and seventh grades, Raffio said.

The academy, whose board is led by businessman Thomas Frischknecht, will offer a curriculum that emphasizes the importance of leadership and self-discipline, Raffio said. Frischknecht could not be reached for comment.

The Founders’ website says the academy will provide a classical education and standard high school curriculum, while teaching students traditional American values. The website is thefoundersacademy.org.

“Students will study the thinking of the American Founders and other great philosophers of liberty,” the website says. “This historical foundation in principles and values will form young people with the knowledge, character and vision to be 21st century leaders.”

Leweck, an Exeter resident with two children, said her group planned to open their school in the Seacoast, but was told by the state Department of Education there were already enough charter schools in that area.

Leweck said they rushed to find a new location in the last month, choosing a site in Derry near the Salem and Atkinson line. She is currently seeking board members from that area.

Granite State Academy would offer core academic programs in addition to a special focus on dance, music, theater and visual arts, she said. Its website is granitestateartsacademy.com.

“One of the reasons we have founded this is because we have seen a really unmet need, she said.

Charter schools are public institutions that receive $5,498 per student from the state Department of Education. The schools must raise the rest of the money needed to educate their students.

The annual cost to educate a New Hampshire student is roughly $13,000, according to Rep. Kenneth Weyler, R-Kingston. He has led efforts in the Legislature to increase funding for charter schools.

There are two other charter schools in Southern New Hampshire. They are Seacoast Charter School in Kingston and The Birches Academy of Academics and Art in Salem, which opened last fall.