Charter says it won’t give up on Senoia school

Thu, 07/16/2009 - 2:29pm
By: Ben Nelms

Charter says it won’t give up on Senoia school

What is next for Charter Schools USA’s bid to open a K-8 charter school in Senoia? Two options were addressed at a public meeting Tuesday as a small group of parents met at the Freeman Sasser building to hear the remarks of company Vice President Richard Page and Georgia company representative Danny Brewington.

The meeting was a follow-up to the June 25 Coweta County School Board meeting where the charter petition from The Georgia Charter Foundation, Inc. on behalf of Charter Schools USA was denied by unanimous vote.

Page and Brewington began the meeting by stating their position that many in the Senoia-area community want the school.

“We believe strongly that there’s interest in the community for a charter school,” Page said, adding that Charter Schools at this point has two options. The foundation will meet later in the week and likely decide on one of the options, Page said.

One option is to wait another year and try to resolve the outstanding issues with the Coweta County School System and re-submit the petition.

The second option is to present the petition application to the newly formed Georgia Charter Schools Commission in August for consideration. If the foundation board goes that route and gains approval the Senoia charter school could open next school year as long as the commission gave the okay by December, Brewington said.

Coweta School Board members denying the petition at the June 25 meeting cited 11 concerns that formed the basis of the unanimous “no” vote. The item specifically referenced prior to the motion and vote came from 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 Department of Education and upon advice of our legal counsel, 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.”

Among the 11 concerns was that Georgia Charter Foundation (GCF) 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 USA 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.

Questions from audience members at the Tuesday meeting in Senoia centered on school system concerns referenced in a June 22 school board meeting and whether Charter Schools USA had received a chance to respond prior to the June 25 vote.

Page said that a response to the concerns had been made prior to the June 25 meeting.

“We prepared and submitted a written response for the June 25 meeting,” Page said. “It included the information that we had formed a Georgia corporation. These (responses) were never taken into consideration as far as we know.”

Also at the Tuesday meeting, Georgia Charter Educational Foundation member and Coweta resident Earnest Taylor referencing the school board’s June 22 and 25 meetings said, “The school board was very quick to call an abrupt meeting (three days later).” Taylor noted the difficulty of having significant numbers of the 400 petition signers notified in time to attend the June 25 meeting.

Following up on that comment, Page said that though the foundation had responded to the concerns prior to the school board vote, he was under the impression that Charter Schools USA had until the July board meeting to receive an up or down vote from the school board.

At the end of the Senoia meeting Page told the audience that, “We’re standing here today to tell you we’re not backing down.”

Contacted about the school system’s concerns, including the formation of a new Georgia non-profit, and about the responses by Charter Schools to those concerns prior to the June 25 “no” vote, Coweta County School System Public Information Officer Dean Jackson said Wednesday the documentation received after the June 22 meeting and prior to the June 25 meeting had not addressed the concerns or had not addressed them to the satisfaction of the school board in order for board members to vote to accept the petition. Those concerns were delineated in the list of 11 referenced by Bass at the June 25 meeting, Jackson said.

A check of the Secretary of State’s website indicated that Georgia Charter Educational Foundation, Inc., formerly filed as the non-profit, Florida-based The Georgia Charter Foundation, Inc., was posted on the website as a Georgia corporation on June 26.

Contacted about the seeming discrepancy, Page said the paperwork that formed the Georgia-based non-profit was filed with the Secretary of State’s office prior to June 25 and that it took a day or two to work its way through that system and be posted on the website. Page said that Charter Schools, nonetheless, had informed the Coweta school system of the change prior to June 25.

login to post comments