Charter to petition state for Senoia school

Thu, 07/23/2009 - 3:07pm
By: Ben Nelms

Charter Schools USA is continuing its bid to establish a K-8 charter school in Senoia. The board of Georgia Charter Educational Foundation, Inc. (GCEF), on behalf of Charter Schools USA, voted late last week to submit a petition to the Georgia Charter Schools Commission as an alternative approach to having the school approved. The move follows a June 25 vote by Coweta County School Board to deny the petition.

Charter Schools USA Vice President Richard Page said Wednesday that the GCEF board met last week to discuss their next step in establishing the school and determined that the most appropriate approach would be to submit the petition to the new state commission rather than waiting until next year to re-submit it to the local school board. The petition deadline is August 1. Page said Charter Schools USA expected that a decision would be forthcoming by December. That would still give Charter time to open the new Senoia school by the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year next summer, Page said.

The GCEF board decision came after a June 25 unanimous vote by the Coweta County School Board to deny the petition.

 “You have before you a list of several of our concerns with the petition,” Superintendent Blake Bass told board members at the June 25 meeting. “Based upon our understanding of the law, discussions with the state Dept. 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 the then-Georgia Charter Foundation (GCF) was a Florida corporation rather than a Georgia company, that GFC has no experience operating a school and that the contract between GCF and Charter Schools USA was only a sample contract. GCF did file as GCEF, a Georgia corporation, though there is some difference of opinion between the school board and the foundation as to the specific date of the filing.

Other concerns 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.

Speaking to parents last week at a meeting in Senoia, Page said Charter had responded to the school system’s concerns 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.”

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.”

Also addressing the June 25 “no” vote by the school board, Coweta County School System Public Information Officer Dean Jackson said the documentation received after the June 22 school board 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.

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