Charter school makes its case for Senoia

Thu, 03/12/2009 - 4:02pm
By: Ben Nelms

Charter school makes its case for Senoia

More than 60 Senoia area residents March 10 heard some of the details of the intent by Florida-based Charter Schools USA to establish a charter school in the city. Representatives held a public information meeting at the Freeman Sasser Building at Seavy Street Park to explain more about the proposal to create a K-8 school to serve up to 800 children. If approved by Coweta County School Board, the school would be Charter USA’s first in Georgia.

Charter Vice President of Operations Richard Page and Georgia representative Danny Brewington reiterated what had been explained at the city council meeting the week before and fielded a host of questions from parents potentially interested in having their children attend a charter school.

Brewington explained that, if approved to operate, the Senoia school would be a public school with no tuition and open to countywide enrollment. Functionally a part of the Coweta school system, funding would come from public dollars, Brewington said, with the school maintaining accountability to the county and state for results. Charter schools are tied to Georgia Performance Standards, Page said.

“The most important thing is that it’s a school of choice,” Page said to parents, adding that the company’s 18 charters on 14 campuses have a student retention rate of more than 90 percent. “If you don’t like it you’ll leave.”

Asked about the process and timeline for establishing the school, Page said a complete proposal package, along with citizen petition signatures, would be presented to the school district in the next 60 days. The school district will have 60 days to approve or deny the charter proposal, Page said. If approved, Charter USA would acquire property in Senoia and have the 50,000-55,000 square-foot school constructed in time for classes to begin in August 2010, Page said.

“We will design the facility to be consistent with the historical design of the city,” Page said, adding that his company was interested in working conceptually with Riverwood Studios on the project.

Responding to multiple school-specific questions from the audience, Page said all applications would be accepted. If there were more students than available desks in a particular grade, a lottery would be conducted. Those not able to attend would be placed on a waiting list, he said. Page added that, historically, the bulk of applications are for the kindergarten and 6th grade levels. The plan to start the school with grades K-8 also includes the idea of offering pre-K and, over time, high school grades, Page said in response to another question.

Other questions at the Tuesday meeting related to teacher salaries. Page said that, in keeping with the performance-based nature inherent to charter schools, teachers pay increases, too, are linked to classroom performance. Pay increases and bonuses are based on both individual and team performance, Page said.

On questions relating to school governance, Page said the charter school board would likely have five members, including two parents and three community members. If composed of seven members, the board make-up would include three parents and four community members. Page said community members would include a diversity of residents from business and the community.

Another audience question centered on the larger issue: what is the benefit to the school district to have a charter school.

“A charter school provides an option for a school board’s constituents,” Page said. “So first and foremost, it’s an opportunity for the district to provide additional programming and services to the community that it serves. On top of that, a charter school can be a financial benefit to the school district in that a charter school will bring private capital to the table to fund the construction and development of a school that doesn’t have to be funded through taxpayer dollars.

Those interested in signing the petition in support of the charter school can do so on-line at

Under Georgia law, a charter school is a public school that operates according to the terms of a charter, or contract, that has been approved by a local board of education and the State Board of Education (SBOE). The charter school may request waivers from provisions of Title 20 of Georgia state law and any state or local rule, regulation, policy, or procedure relating to schools in the school district. In exchange for this flexibility, the charter school is bound by contract and held accountable for meeting the performance-based objectives specified in the charter, according to Georgia Dept. of Education (DOE).

A traditional public school is organized according to federal laws, state school laws, State Board of Education rules and local board of education policies. A charter school is organized according to federal laws, applicable state school laws and SBOE rules that cannot be waived and the terms of the charter contract, according to DOE. Georgia has more than 70 charter schools in operation.

Charter schools are public schools. The Georgia Charter Schools Act of 1998 states that a charter school shall be included in the allotment of funds to the local school system in which the charter school is located. The local board and state board shall treat the charter school no less favorably than other local schools in the school district with respect to the provision of funds for instructional and school administration and, where feasible, transportation, food services, and building programs. The amount of money the charter school will receive from the local board will be determined according to the provisions of the Charter Schools Act of 1998, according to DOE.

In addition, the charter school will receive federal funds for special education services and for other categorical program services to the extent to which any pupil is in the charter school is eligible to participate. If additional revenues are needed, the charter school must depend on independent means.

For more information on Charter Schools USA visit

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Submitted by kayfay on Thu, 03/12/2009 - 5:15pm.

If you read this carefully you give up your right to vote. Between five and seven will be appointed. There is no vote. The contract is for 5 years. This means you will have no control or say in the education of the students or how money is spent. I am always in favor of school choice but not to the point that I am willing to surrender my rights. In addition Charter Schools will be controlled at the state level not the local level.

Was there mention of what type of Charter School this would be? Arts, math, tech, behavior,etc... There are major talks about Charter schools in Forsyth County. What are the effects in Florida.

Coweta County does not meet AYP. I know we are in need of change. Not all change means it is for the good. Is this an option to get around AYP, the very laws that we created to protect our children?

If you are interested in other Bills I urge you to look at SB 84 My Senator was excused from the vote and has not returned calls or e-mails on this issue.

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