July 22, 1999 VNN4345 Comment on this story
A New School Of Thought
FROM ST. PETERSBURG TIMES
ALACHUA, USA, Jul 22 (VNN) The Hare Krishnas say their Alachua charter school will combine the values of a religious school with the curriculum of a public school.
By PAUL WILBORN
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 18, 1999
ALACHUA -- The principal is a 50-year-old Ph.D. The teacher has 30 years of experience in the classroom. The lines carved around the eyes and mouths of the five school administrators are silent signatures of years spent in business and the professions.
Most mornings they gather, just after sunrise, in flowing robes of fine cotton and silk, to bang finger cymbals, beat drums and chant their devotion to Krishna.
"Hare Krishna. Hare Rama. Hare Krishna. Hare Rama. Krishna Krishna. Rama Rama. Hare Hare. Hare Hare."
Welcome to New Ramana Reti, 127 acres of rolling hills and ancient oaks, 15 miles north of Gainesville, home to America's first Hare Krishna-run charter school.
The Alachua County School Board narrowly approved the Krishnas' application this month, after initially rejecting the proposal amid considerable controversy in March.
When charter school legislation passed the Florida Legislature three years ago, conservatives predicted it would sprout innovative schools and teaching techniques. Who knew one of the blossoms would be a lotus?
"I didn't expect it," said Cathy Wooley-Brown, who directs the Florida Charter School Resource Center at the University of South Florida.
"We've had other religious-based groups, but when I heard this I was surprised."
Wooley-Brown had talked with the organizers as they prepared their application but didn't realize they were Krishnas. She was impressed instead by their knowledge and determination.
"It was a very strong application," she said.
And popular. Ninety-four students have signed up for the new charter school that opens in September. About 75 percent are from the Krishna community.
Eventually, though, the Krishnas think their school will appeal to a broad range of parents in this hilly, oak-choked town of 6,000 where the Bible belt is easing out a few notches to make room for a fanny pack full of new age devotees.
Full story at: http://www.sptimes.com/News/71899/State/A_new_school_of_thoug.shtml
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