High marks for Guidance Charter School

Guidance Charter School keeps its class sizes between 20-25 students to ensure a more focused learning environment, say school officials.

PALMDALE – In keeping with its commitment to serve the community in the most sincere and transparent way, Guidance Charter School held its annual press conference Wednesday to update the community on how the school is doing.

Executive Director Kamal Al-Khatib gave a detailed “progress report,” which covered several areas, including the school’s financial standing, academic performance, student enrollment and ethnicity balance, accreditation, and charter renewal. The following are some of the highlights.

Executive Director Kamal Al-Khatib.

Guidance Charter School is in the black! According to an independent auditors’ report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, Guidance Charter School had $1.6 million total net assets and an ending cash balance of $255,258. “We’re required by law to keep 8% of the expenses in a reserve and we have over 20%,” said Al-Khatib. “Our reserves have increased because we’ve used a very conservative approach in our policies.”

Academic Performance Index (API) score has dropped. Guidance Charter School’s API score dropped from 759 in 2010 to 752 in 2011. “We lost seven points because we received some English learners who came to the school and who did not do very well in the English section of the test,” said Al-Khatib. He says the school was making several changes to correct this for the next school year, and was aiming to make the statewide API goal of 800 in 2012.

A steady increase in student enrollment, but classes remain small. Guidance Charter School started out with 60 students in 2001 and has steadily grown to its current population of 312 students. Still, the school has managed to keep its classes small so the learning environment is better, said Al-Khatib. There are 20 students per class in grades K-3 and 25 students per class in grades fourth through eight. Al-Khatib said the school intends to keep its classes small, even if it means getting less money from the state. “If you put more students in a class, you get more money from the state because it’s based on Average Daily Attendance,” Al-Khatib said. “Our goal is not to make money; our goal is to provide a quality education.”

Hispanics and African Americans make up the majority of the student population at the school.

Minority students are the majority at Guidance Charter School. At 40% and 32%, Hispanics and African Americans make up the majority of the student population at Guidance Charter School. “I am very proud to say that our school is very diverse,” said Al-Khatib. He said the school just added a Board Member of Hispanic descent so that the school’s Board of Directors could better represent the diversity of the school.

Students put in more time at Guidance Charter School. Al-Katib said the law requires all public schools to teach 34,971 minutes a year at the kindergarten level. However, Guidance Charter School taught 58,950 minutes of instruction for the 2010-2011 school year. The school also went above and beyond in teaching first aid and CPR to every person at the school, from the custodians to the principal.

Guidance Charter School is accredited. Guidance Charter School gained a three-year certificate of accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in June. While WASC approval is not required for the school to exist, Al-Khatib says the accreditation is important in other ways. “WASC is the organization that gives accreditation for schools to be able to graduate students that are accepted worldwide,” he said. “If you have a degree from the United States and you want to work overseas, they will not accept it if it is not WASC approved.”

Arabic language is taught from K-8 as part of the school's curriculum.

Next up for Guidance Charter School? K-12. Guidance Charter School is making plans to expand its campus from K-8 to K-12. Though plans are still in the initial stages, Al-Khatib says he envisions two campuses, one for elementary and one for secondary and high school. He said 81% of the parents want their children to continue through high school with Guidance Charter.

“The reason why is that we graduate the students from eighth grade and they go from a 300-student school to a 4000-student school and they are in a cultural shock,” said Al Khatib. “We want to take them through the same environment from K to 12 so we don’t have that problem.”

Al-Khatib says the school is also continuing its commitment to focus on information technology and to teach Arabic as a world language. Arabic language is taught from K-8 as part of the school’s curriculum.

“It is important because the Arabic language is the most demanding language in the world right now,” he said. “Right now, if you speak and write Arabic, without having any degrees, you can make $180,000 (a year) with the Department of Defense.

Al-Khatib says Guidance Charter School’s annual report is open to parents as well as the general public. Those wishing to get a copy of the report should come to Guidance Charter School’s next Board Meeting, which takes place on Jan. 12 at the campus.