Superintendent's moves make headlines

December 27, 2002 12:00 am

By CLAIRE ST. JOHN

It seems that everything Linda Frost has done in the past 12 months raised eyebrows or ire.

And — although she calls 2002 a very demanding year — she weathered it with quiet strength and determination.

Summerville High School District's superintendent since 1999, Frost has guided a bond-funded construction program that yielded a $12.5 million gymnasium, theater and library. She also launched a new charter school that focuses on performance and fine arts — and accepts seventh and eighth grade students from other districts to learn on the high school campus.

All of that makes her one of The Union Democrat's Top 10 newsmakers of the year.

‘Cannibalizing students'

Public school funding is based on attendance. And, with declining enrollment already taking bites out of district budgets, Frost's decision to accept middle-schoolers into the high school's charter program had the potential to hurt Summerville High's feeder schools.

The superintendents and board members of these schools — Summerville Elementary and Twain Harte — voiced concerns about Frost siphoning students, and cash, from their schools.

"The problem I have with this is that it is basically cannibalizing students from other schools," Twain Harte-Long Barn School District Trustee Chris Garnin said in May.

Despite objections , Frost opened the new Connections Performing Arts School on Aug. 19, welcoming 61 students. The number has since grown to 70.

"My position, as a person who believes in charter, is that parents have a right to choose," Frost said, adding that if the students own schools had offered what they want educationally, she wouldn't be welcoming them to her own campus.

The charter school offers a challenging academic course, allowing qualifying seventh and eighth graders to take algebra and Spanish while being expected to excel in English, math and social studies. The burgeoning arts courses offered to the students are not available at other county schools.