FARMINGTON >> A Shiprock area school will be the first charter school on the New Mexico portion of the Navajo Nation after winning an appeal filed earlier this year with the state education department.

Officials with the Dream Diné Charter School said its appeal to the New Mexico Public Education Commission was accepted after its charter application was not approved on Sept. 27.

School governing board member Gavin Sosa said last week that he was happy to see years of work come to fruition.

"We are real excited, the community and the team is just excited," Sosa said. "It's no longer just a dream but a reality."

Dream Diné officials plan to use both Navajo and English languages to teach subjects aligned with the "Common Core" state standards. And the school will use the Diné philosophy of life to influence lessons.

The school will offer classes to kindergarten and first-grade students in the fall of 2014 and will add one grade level each school year up to eighth-grade.

Sosa said they were one of the highest scoring applicants.

The application was recommended for approval by Public Education Commission staff members during the commission's Sept. 27 hearing, according to the minutes of the meeting.

Tony Gerlicz, the director of the state's Charter School Division, said a team of reviewers gave the application the highest marks of any applicant for its educational plan. He also praised the plan for demonstrating community support and for its financial plan. Part of that support was gauged at a hearing at the Shiprock Chapter House on Aug. 19.

"Our team synthesis score reflects the Charter School (Division's) belief that this school has a high probability of success," Gerlicz said.

However, commissioners were not as supportive. During the September hearing one commissioner said he was concerned that the application didn't specify goals and another said he was concerned about the commitment to serving special needs students.

"I think this application needs another year of work," said commission Chairwoman Carolyn Shearman. "I think you have a marvelous idea, and I want it to work. And I want it to work out of the chute, the day this school opens. I want it to be the very best thing that it can possibly be for those students who walk in the door. And I don't believe this plan is ready to do that."

Commissioners defeated a motion to approve the center by a 5-3 vote, but did not vote on whether to deny the charter or approve it with conditions.

Sosa said governing board members appealed the decision and about 24 hours later were contacted with an offer to settle that allowed the board to move forward.

Efforts to get the school ready for a Fall 2014 launch are underway. The curriculum team met earlier this month, Sosa said, and governing board members are holding meetings with organizations to discuss potential funding.

And a representative from the New Mexico Public Schools Facility Authority recently toured a space in the Diné College campus in Shiprock that could provide a temporary home for the school.

Governing board member Rose Nofchissey said she was pleasantly surprised by the charter approval.

"The reality is still settling," Nofchissey said. "Team members stuck together while going through hurdles and obstacles, it really pulled us together."

Nofchissey said she is working on community outreach and would like to make connections with families local government officials in the area where the school is expected to operate.

"I think we really do need that community support to really service our children and meet the needs of the community," Nofchissey said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.