- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs wants to open a charter school in at juvenile detention facilities in Tecumseh and Manitou, where local school districts are currently providing educational programs.

The charter school is an opportunity to provide more effective education at about the same cost as the current setup, OJS Executive Director Keith Wilson told The Oklahoman (http://bit.ly/11azAAA).

“I’m not being critical of the school districts. I think they’ve tried hard and done a reasonably good job. (But) I think it can be more effective” Wilson said.

The Tecumseh and the Tipton school districts currently provide the educational programs at the respective centers, Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou and Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Tecumseh.

The state agency wants to offer more vocational training and life skills than are currently available, said Janelle Bretten, chief of programs for the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

“Some of the kids we have coming in haven’t really been exposed to a lot of opportunity” she said.

Wilson said he knows the students at the facilities can be challenging. All been suspended from school, 91 percent were suspended more than once and 16 percent have not attended public school for one to two years.

As a charter school, OJA will be better able to reintegrate the youth back into their local school, Wilson said.

“A lot of times, the local school district simply doesn’t want to see them return. But they are entitled to return and we will work with them to see that gets done,” he said.

Tipton Public Schools Superintendent Shane Boothe does not support the proposal, saying OJA has not committed to hiring any of the current staff, and he’s anticipating having to layoff as many as 10 certified teachers and four non-certified staff members.

“This could be better termed as a lose-lose-lose-lose situation,” he said.

Tecumseh Superintendent Tom Wilsie said he’s also concerned about the future employment of the district’s teachers at Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center.

Charter schools inside juvenile facilities are becoming more common, said Carol Cramer Brooks, director of the National Center for Youth in Custody. Some are successful, but some aren’t.

“It’s a function of whether the people operating know the difference between detention education and public education,” she said. “If they come in and simply try to duplicate the public school system, they will fail.”

The OJA application is expected to be voted on aby the Oklahoma State Board of Education later this year and, if approved, Wilson said the charter school should be in operation in 2016.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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