Columbia County charter school denied, Hephzibah charter school approved

(MGN Online)
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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- The petition to build a charter school in Columbia County was denied while a Hephzibah charter school was given the green light, the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia said.

According to the SCSC, Columbia County could not show the governing board was able to operate a charter school and "hold the school leaders accountable." The Commission also said Columbia County's proposal did not have a good strategy to be prepared for the 2015-2016 school year.

On the other hand, Hephzibah's plan would serve students "from nearby rural south Richmond, Burke, Jenkins Counties and Fort Gordon and... Plant Vogtle."

The charter school in Hephzibah would be named Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics and handed over a "sound educational and operational plan."

SCSC's rationale for Hephzibah:

The petition and information presented by Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics met all requirements of rule and law and indicate that the school will operate as a high-quality charter school consistent with the SCSC’s mission and the educational goals of Georgia.

The Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics focus on classical education throughout its educational program combined with partnerships with key civic, industry, and higher education entities to e classroom learning with the workplace. The intent of the classical educational model and subsequent statewide attendance zone is the development of a culture of high expectation to serve students from nearby rural south Richmond, Burke, Jenkins Counties and Fort Gordon and capitalize on the reality of nearby Fort Gordon and Plant Vogtle being regional employment centers that draw their employment base from a much wider, multi-county area.

Specifically, Georgia School for Innovation and the Classics presents a sound educational and operational plan. The school proposes to use research-based instructional models that have been implemented in other Georgia charter schools with success. The governing board addressed its plan to utilize a statewide attendance zone as well as its ability to hold its educational providers accountable. The budget submitted with the petition indicates that the petitioner presents capacity to understand and implement school finance.

SCSC's rationale for Columbia County:

1. The proposed school did not demonstrate that the governing board possesses adequate governing capacity to operate a charter school that operates as its own Local Education Agency (LEA) and hold the school leaders accountable. The proposed school governing board, while passionate about education and the school, did not establish its ability to hold school leadership accountable for the implementation of the educational plan and adherence to all legal requirements. The school leaders proved knowledgeable regarding the requirements for operating a state charter school; however, the governing board did not demonstrate that it would be able to assert authority, management, and oversight over the school leaders.

2. The proposed school did not have a clear strategy to begin operation by the 2015-2016 school year. Preparing to operate a state charter school is a time-consuming task that requires serious commitment and dedication. Among many obligations the governing board and school leader must complete prior to a school’s opening are to establish and manage a budget; acquire facilities; develop each aspect of its instructional program; hire teachers and support staff; establish and implement governing, personnel, and student policies. The leaders of the school, however, are under contract to work full time in the school’s proposed planning year, and it was not clear how the school leaders propose to balance the conflicting obligations.

3. The proposed school did not articulate a strategy for locating the school or obtaining a facility in an achievable timeframe to begin operation by the 2015-2016 school year.

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