Kerr-Vance gives intent to leave private, go charter

Sep. 05, 2013 @ 06:48 PM

The founding board of the Kerr-Vance Academy Charter School says it intends to convert Kerr-Vance Academy, a private school in Henderson, into a public charter school.

Schools planning to apply for charter status must send a letter of intent to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools no later than noon today, and Kerr-Vance has fulfilled that requirement.

If the college preparatory school applies in December, it could open as a charter school in fall 2015.

“Vance County continues to suffer from one of the highest dropout rates in North Carolina,” Betty Fudge wrote in a press release. Fudge is the charter school board chairwoman.

“We see the conversion of Kerr-Vance Academy from a private school to a tuition-free public school as an opportunity to provide students in Vance County who might not otherwise be able to afford a private education access to a high-quality public school at no cost,” she wrote in the release.

In May, Principal Paul Villatico announced that the school’s board of trustees was exploring the charter school option.

Villatico said the school wants to apply for charter status in order to serve more children and families in the county.

“People are looking for an alternative education and we have the facility and the programs here,” he said.

Villatico said his school has seen enrollment numbers decrease since 2009.

“The economy finally caught up with us,” he said.

He said the school’s tuition has become an obstacle for some families who want to send their kids to Kerr-Vance.

For the 2013-2014 school year, the K-12 enrollment was around 300 and enrollment for 2- and 3-year-olds was 18.

Villatico said he intends to increase enrollment to 550 to 600 kids per year when the school converts to charter.

In June 2011, the N.C. General Assembly approved a bill that lifts the statewide 100-school cap on charters. The bill, eventually signed into law by former Gov. Beverly Purdue, also allows existing charter schools to increase enrollment growth and sets standards and procedures for underachieving students.

On Thursday, 26 of 32 in the most recent application process were approved for fall 2014, raising the number of charter schools in the state from 129 to 155.

The N.C. Office of Charter Schools received about 90 applications in 2012 for new statewide charter schools.

There are two charter schools in Vance County: Henderson Collegiate on Health Center Road and Vance Charter on Dabney Drive.

Henderson Collegiate opened in 2010 with 100 fourth-grade students. Now, the school has fourth through seventh grades with about 100 students per grade. It will continue to add a class of students each to create grades from fourth to 12th.

Vance Charter opened in 1999 with about 130 students. For the 2012-2013 school year, Vance Charter enrolled about 545 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Vance Charter has no plans to add more grades.

Villatico said the board is now working on the charter school application that is due in December.

In March 2014, the N.C. Public Charter School Advisory Council will review the application and interview members of the Kerr-Vance Academy Charter School board.

The advisory council recommends policies to the State Board of Education regarding all aspects of charter school operation, including timelines, standards, criteria for acceptance and approval of applications.

The advisory council will make recommendations in May 2014 to the State Board of Education, which will issue preliminary approval to applicants in June.

“We are all in education together, we are all about trying to help kids prepare for the future,” Villatico said. “As we move into a new age and Vance County has changed, we have an opportunity to serve more kids, more families and provide a place for them to get an excellent education. That’s what we are trying to do.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com