Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The "charter" establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor – usually a state or local school board– to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them.
What does this mean for the Chesapeake Public Charter School?
Although CPCS is officially one of the St. Mary’s County Public Schools, and therefore responsible to the St. Mary’s County Superintendent and School Board, CPCS can develop its own unique curriculum (within the guidelines of the Voluntary State Curriculum) as specified in the charter. CPCS also has its own governing body called the Chesapeake Charter School Alliance Governing Board. Parents, staff and students are encouraged to participate in the Board and decisions regarding the school.
CPCS is a public school and therefore tuition-free, but CPCS receives only a portion of funding from the public school system, and therefore must rely on fundraising for many important aspects of the school, including building construction, equipment and more.