Senoia charter school down but not out

Thu, 07/02/2009 - 3:07pm
By: The Citizen

The bid by Charter Schools USA to establish a K-8 charter school in Senoia was defeated June 25 by a unanimous vote of the Coweta County School Board. Charter Schools has the option of presenting the petition to the Georgia Charter Schools Commission for consideration later this summer.

The June 25 denial of the petition to establish the charter school came at the recommendation of Superintendent Blake Bass.

“You have before you a list of several of our concerns with the petition,” Bass said to board members. “Based upon our understanding of the law, discussions with the state Dept. of Education and upon advice of our legal council, it is apparent that the petitioner lacks the capacity to file a petition because it is a foreign, non-profit corporation and not a Georgia non-profit corporation. Therefore the petition is defective and I am recommending denial. I’m also recommending denial based upon our staff’s concerns set forth in the list before you.”

Those 11 concerns with the petition for Charter Schools USA, submitted to the school system by Georgia Charter Foundation, Inc. (GCF), were also raised at the school board meeting three days earlier. Among the concerns was that Charter Schools USA is a Florida corporation rather than a Georgia company, that GCF has no experience operating a school and that the contract between GCF and Charter Schools was only a sample contract. Other points noted that Charter has not obtained property for the school, has only one special education teacher budgeted and has not submitted sufficient financial management and operating guidelines. Still other concerns centered on Charter’s leadership team, indemnification issues, the establishment of a management group, accreditation issues and academic success in terms of making AYP within three years.

The motion by board member Sue Brown immediately followed the superintendent’s recommendation. After the second on the motion, Chairman Steve Bedrosian read a prepared statement that was followed by the unanimous vote to deny the petition.

“I’ve been approached by many constituents in my districts about Charter Schools in Senoia. On the surface I think the charter academy is a good idea. However, given the possibility of outside charter schools coming into Coweta County in the future, as a board member, I have an obligation. And I do not want to start a precedent of voting for a petition that does not meet the letter of the (Georgia) Charter School Act,” Bedrosian said. “I have to vote against that petition. I want to make it clear, I’m not voting against the Georgia Charter Foundation or a charter school in Senoia. Upon the filing of a new petition that meets the requirements of both state and federal rules I will certainly consider it.”

Commenting Wednesday on the petition denial, Charter Schools USA Vice President of Operations Richard Page said he regretted the board’s decision and spoke about the potential for presenting the petition before the Georgia Charter Schools Commission in the coming months, saying Charter Schools USA would likely present the petition to that body for consideration.

“We’re frustrated and disappointed with the outcome of the vote. We thought we had a stronger position than (the school board) did,” he said. “We’re not giving up. We believe the community demonstrated support for a charter school and we’ll fight to get one. We’re not giving up on a charter school in Senoia and we’ll likely go before the commission.”

Relating to the denial of the petition, Page said Charter Schools USA had received the 11-point list of concerns at the June 22 school board meeting.

“We thought we would have the opportunity to address the concerns. We thought we’d be able to meet with the superintendent and school system staff prior to the meeting where the recommendation would be made,” said Page. “We didn’t know about the Thursday school board meeting until Wednesday.”

Charter Schools USA is scheduled to hold a community forum July 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Freeman Sasser Building to get community input and discuss coming efforts with Georgia Charter Schools Commission.

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