Charter deadline arrives Friday

Dec. 04, 2013 @ 06:37 PM

Groups hoping to open a charter school in fall 2015 are completing their plans by Friday, the state deadline to submit an application.

In September, three groups in Vance County sent letters of intent to the state Office of Charter Schools containing preliminary information about the proposed schools.

Chaucer’s Charter School of Henderson, Empowerment Academy Charter School and Kerr-Vance Charter are the proposed schools that submitted letters of intent, but they might not all apply come Dec. 6.

Kerr-Vance Charter plans to convert Kerr-Vance Academy, a private school in Henderson, into a charter. The county currently has two charters in Vance Charter and Henderson Collegiate but neither has high school grades.

The letters of intent were required for the first time last year, and the state Office of Charter Schools received 163 letters for fall 2014. Of those, only 70 went forward with an application in March. The charter schools office received more than 170 letters of intent in September.

Joel Medley, director of the office of charter schools, said the letters of intent encourage organizations to start planning early.

“If you can’t know by September that you will be writing a charter school application, will that be a really quality application?” Medley said.

In June 2011, the N.C. General Assembly approved Senate Bill 8 that removed the cap on the number of charter schools permitted to operate in the state.

In response to this legislation, the state board of education created the 15-member N.C. Public Charter Schools Advisory Council that is charged with reviewing applications and making recommendations to the State Board of Education for final approval of charter applications.

The General Assembly voted this year to form a new 11-member advisory board, the Charter School Advisory Board, to replace the Public Charter Schools Advisory Council. The board’s mission is to ensure the existence of high quality charter schools.

“The focus is on the highest quality of applications,” Medley said.

He said the advisory board breaks into several evaluation teams that are responsible for making recommendations to the full board.

The advisory board conducts interviews with the remaining applicants and makes recommendations to the state board of education, which has final approval. The preliminary approval from the state board of education will come in June 2014.

Deryl von Williams, who plans to submit an application for Empowerment Academy Charter School, said she has submitted the application twice before and she has improved each time.

For the past 12 years, Williams has operated the Vance County Learning Center, which is an alternative school for at-risk teens and adults who did not complete high school.

If approved, Empowerment Academy Charter School would hold middle and high school in addition to the adult learning center that currently serves 100 adults.

She said her proposed charter would serve those with low test scores and low attendance who had not found success in the traditional public schools.

“These are the ones who have dropped out of school, can’t find work and are doing nothing,” she said.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.