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Discussion of Brentwood charter school plan

The Brentwood board of education will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss a charter school that could open in the district in the fall of 2013.

District spokesman Rick Belyea said the public hearing is required by law. Dignitas Academy Charter School, a new venture for the School for Language and Communication Development, has applied to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which authorizes charter schools in the state.

According to its website, the School for Language and Communication Development has locations in Glen Cove, Woodside and Richmond Hills. It focuses on speech impairment, learning disability, hearing impairment, mental retardation, autism, emotional disturbance, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments.

Dignitas would be housed at the now-closed St. Joseph's Academy and cater to English-language learners within the Brentwood Union Free School District, and at full capacity would take 456 pupils in grades K-6. If approved, it would be the first charter school in the district.

Dignitas spokesman Brad Gerstman said a charter school for nonnative English speakers is needed in Brentwood, where Hispanic students make up 75 percent of the district, and 28 percent of students are "limited English proficient," according to the state Education Department.

But residents and school board members have railed against charter schools in the past, fearing they'd siphon funds from the district and cherry-pick talented students.

Dignitas has been rejected for a charter before. In 2010, Dignitas, operating under the name Phoenix Academy Charter School, was denied a charter by the state Education Department for an English-language learners school in Queens. Department spokesman Tom Dunn said the application was "not found to provide all required information about proposed school design and plan for student recruitment and retention."Belyea said the district has not taken a stance on the application. School board president Helen Moss said she would not comment on the application until after tomorrow's meeting, which will be at 7 p.m. at South Middle School, 785 Candlewood Rd.

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