Pastor Plants Seeds for Charter School

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The Rev. Lindsay Curtis is pastor of Grace Baptist Church in South Norwalk.
The Rev. Lindsay Curtis is pastor of Grace Baptist Church in South Norwalk. Photo Credit: Jim Gerweck
The Rev. Lindsay Curtis of Grace Baptist Church is working to start a charter school, the South Norwalk Collegiate Academy.
The Rev. Lindsay Curtis of Grace Baptist Church is working to start a charter school, the South Norwalk Collegiate Academy. Photo Credit: Jim Gerweck

Like Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Lindsay Curtis has a dream. Curtis's dream is about equality; his method of achieving it is education.

"We have an achievement gap that has become a chasm," said Curtis, minister of Grace Baptist Church on West Avenue in South Norwalk. "The way to overcome that is through education." To reach that goal, Curtis has long dreamed of starting a charter school in South Norwalk that would cater to children from economically disadvantaged families. That dream is now one giant step closer to reality.

On Oct. 28, a formal application to form the South Norwalk Collegiate Academy was filed with the state Department of Education, which now has 90 days to review it and give Curtis and school organizers the approval to move forward.

"We've been talking about the school for ages, maybe six years," said Curtis. "It became apparent we needed to get the charter first in order to get things moving."

If the charter were approved, Curtis hopes the Academy's operations would begin in the fall of 2011 for kindergarten and first grade. "Eventually, it will be a K through 8 – we'll move up with the kids." Class size would be limited to 20 students, with two classes per grade, focusing on a "rigorous curriculum designed to prepare kids for college and the 21st century," Curtis said.

Such an endeavor isn't cheap: Curtis anticipates a $450,000 startup budget. Fundraising is under way, bolstered by a $250,000 challenge grant as well as the promise of all proceeds from the Mayor's Ball in January. "We're absolutely gaining momentum," said Curtis. "There's a sizable amount of public support.

"We're not saying our school will be a panacea for everything," he said. "But it will provide an alternative environment for achievement."

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Norwalk already has a fine charter school catering specifically to the very same students that Rev. Curtis seeks to serve. He has also been soliciting funds and donations without being registered as a non profit with the State of Connecticut. With the budget constraints of the Department of Education and the cuts in budgets across the board approval for this school is very unlikely. Our public schools need this money, not another start up school.