HAYWARD -- At their first meeting of the year, Hayward trustees approved two new charter schools and heard a proposal by African-American community leaders to improve the academic performance of black youth.
Silver Oak Montessori Charter School and Knowledge Enlightens You (KEY) Academy were given the green light Wednesday night by Hayward Unified trustees, who unanimously approved charter agreements with the schools.
Silver Oak is a high school that will include grades 9 through 12. It is affiliated with Golden Oak Montessori Charter School in Hayward, which has kindergarten through eighth-grade classes.
KEY Academy is a kindergarten through eighth-grade school with a focus on serving students who speak Urdu, Punjab, Hindi, Farsi, Arabic Pashto and other Persian dialects.
Board member Lisa Brunner said that she is not a supporter of charter schools in general, but the two groups had met the legal requirements for approval.
"I ask that you be diligent that your student body reflect the diversity of this community," she said to supporters of Golden Oaks. She also said she was glad to see KEY Academy offering Arabic language classes.
In addition to Golden Oak, Hayward already has two other charter schools, both of which are grades nine through 12: Leadership Public School and Impact Academy of Arts and Technology.
Also before the board was a community plan to raise test scores of African-American students. The Rev. Tommy Smith of Palma Ceia Baptist Church outlined a four-part platform proposed by the African-American Educational Coalition.
It includes intervention for low-achieving students, culturally sensitive training for teachers and other school employees, a review of district behavioral policies and promoting parent and community partnerships and alliances with school sites.
Smith said there is a link between low achievement and discipline and urged that referrals to alternative schools be reviewed to ensure there was no racial bias. In its report to the board, the coalition noted that while 14 percent of the district's students are African-Americans, 29 percent of those the district's alternative Brenkwitz High are black. He also asked that the district look at guidelines for suspensions and expulsions.
Board members agreed there was a need to bring up the scores of African-American students and pledged their support.
"I would like to thank you for stepping up," trustee John Taylor said.
Smith said Thursday that the coalition would be working with Superintendent Donald Evans' office on carrying out some of the ideas.