Marketplace expansion includes two from Vance County

Dec. 26, 2013 @ 10:03 PM

The educational marketplace in North Carolina is expanding.

With the number of charter schools increasing, there are more specialized learning environments vying for a place in the market.

The number of public charter schools has grown from 129 public charter schools in 54 of the state’s 100 counties to 155 in 57 counties by fall 2014, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

The state office of charter schools recently received 71 applications from nonprofit organizations seeking to open a charter school in fall 2015, including two from Vance County: Empowerment Academy and Kerr-Vance Academy Charter.

Yolanda Ector submitted a letter of intent for The Chaucer’s Charter School of Henderson, stating plans to apply for charter status on Dec. 6, but the application was not received by the deadline.

When reached by the Dispatch, Ector declined to comment on her application.

While some proposed charters have embraced the college preparatory model, others are proposing small, individualized programs focused on students who are at risk of dropping out of high school.

Deryl Von Williams spent more than 100 hours working on her application to add a new charter to her school for at-risk kids, Vance County Learning Center.

Von Williams founded the learning center on Garnett Street 12 years ago, and it currently serves 100 adults who are working toward a high school diploma.

Her application has been rejected twice before, but she resubmitted it last week with the hopes of her new Empowerment Academy opening by fall 2015.

Von Williams said her school would eventually offer middle and high school to 300 students in Vance County and the surrounding communities, but would initially start with a class of 150.

She said her target student population includes those who have shown low achievement, poor attendance and behavior issues in traditional public schools. “They need support and a unique environment to succeed,” she said. “We believe that all students can succeed.”

Von Williams said student achievement would be measured based on several factors, including the percentage of students promoted to the next grade level and the percentage of students who remain in the school or graduate with a high school diploma.

Her model also stresses the importance of an Individual Education Program for students with developmental and behavioral disabilities.

“No one will have to beg us for an IEP,” she said, adding that those students will continue to fall behind if the school does not recognize their learning disability.

“Our goal is to empower with knowledge,” von Williams said.

Yolanda Ector, of Chaucer’s Charter School of Henderson, declined to comment on the application for her school.

Kerr-Vance Academy in Henderson is applying to convert from a K-12 private school to a charter.

Paul Villatico, the headmaster, said the school’s application contains almost 300 pages devoted entirely to curriculum.

“It’s a pretty extensive plan,” he said. “It’s about 600 pages of information of what we intend to do and why we intend to do it. Everything is in there.”

The K-12 enrollment at Kerr-Vance Academy for the 2013-2014 school year was around 300 and Villatico said he intends to increase enrollment to 580 students if the school converts to charter in fall 2015.

“It’s not just enrollment, obviously our enrollment is down,” he said. “We have a facility that can serve twice as many kids than we are now. We want to serve the community better and we have the resources here to do that.”

Villatico said the Kerr-Vance Charter application also outlines the school’s plan for children with disabilities.

“We are going to have all academic levels and we had to create a plan for what services we would offer to kids with special needs,” Villatico said.

If approved as charter, the school will be required to comply with the Common Core curriculum and state standardized testing, such as end of course and end of grade tests.

Villatico said the proposed charter would measure student success using a litany of assessments, as well as tracking the graduation rate and drop out rate.

“Our emphasis is still going to be college and career planning,” he said. “We are going to shoot to prepare every student to go into that direction but we know not every student wants to go to college. We plan to make sure they are prepared for whatever is next.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.