The Kern High School District on Wednesday morning will hold a public hearing and consider a petition for a new charter school named after the nation's president.

The Barack H. Obama Leadership Academy aims to teach disadvantaged, at-risk teenagers and at the same time provide mental health services and substance abuse treatment, according to the petition.

The school board may vote on Wednesday to approve or deny the charter's petition. The district would not comment on the petition pending the hearing and board discussion.

One of two petitioners, David McGuire, said Bakersfield would benefit from a charter school like this, which caters to those in danger of dropping out.

"We want to make a difference," said McGuire, who is from the Los Angeles area. "We want to come in and help. Together we can make progress and help people."

Health Care Dual Diagnosis, a nonprofit, would provide health care, McGuire said. They've provided counseling and services to various schools in Compton.

The school's mission is to "focus on leadership development, technical integration, economic development, and social skills, along with workplace competencies." The school will be tuition free. It aims to enroll 300 students its first year; 500 by year five.

Earlier this month, Orange Unified School District in Orange County shot down a petition for a charter school with the same name and same petitioners, McGuire and Edna Miller.

Trustees said it failed to meet California Education Code standards for the establishment of a charter school. That district staff said the 400-page petition "presented an unsound educational program" and was "poorly prepared, inconsistent and even incomprehensible." It also contained many errors, according to The Orange County Register.

The petition, turned into KHSD earlier this month, incorrectly identified the district as "Kern County Unified School District" and also as Escondido Union High School District, which is in San Diego County. The 3-inch thick petition contained an introduction and recommendation written by Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn.

Charter schools are usually reviewed and sponsored by local school districts, and goals and procedures are detailed in an agreement between district boards and charter organizers. The district must legally hold a public hearing within 30 days of receiving the petition. If denied, appeals can be made to the county and state boards of education. Kern High School District must address the Obama academy because students from the district could potentially go there.

McGuire would not say why school officials decided to name the school after President Obama. Several schools throughout the nation have already been named after him. In California there are two: Barack Obama Charter School in Compton (formerly Qued Charter Elementary School) and Barack Obama Academy in Oakland (formerly Alternative Education School).

There are only six charter schools in Kern County with a combined population of about 2,000 students, according to the California Department of Education. Two of those -- Valley Oaks Charter School and Kern Workforce 2000 Academy -- are in Bakersfield.

A third Bakersfield charter school was proposed earlier this year in Greenfield Union School District. The petition for Smothers Academy, which focused on closing the achievement gap among black and Hispanic students, was retracted in November, but will be resubmitted in early 2010, school officials said.

The newest charter, Paramount Bard Academy in Delano, opened in August.

Nyra Constant, a prospective teacher for the Obama academy, said she thinks the school could help certain at-risk students.

"I believe the model they have set up could assist the community," she said.

For more information on the proposed charter school, go to or attend the meeting at 8:30 a.m. at the district boardroom, 5801 Sundale Ave.

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