The groups that want to open charter schools in Wake County for the 2014-15 school year represent a variety of different interests and offer a wide range of programming options.
As noted in today's article, 13 schools are proposed for Wake, out of a group of 28 for the Triangle for 2014. Previous reports about 14 new schools in Wake were wrong. I'll explain more in the post.
Those who filed letters of intent weren't required to provide information on their mission statement, grade structure, student projections and target population. All that will come from the application due March 1.
But through a combination of what's on the form and interviews, here's some details on the Wake applicants.
The intent letter for Challenge Charter School was filed by Ray Gwilliam, director of business development for Utah-based American Charter Development, which helps charter school operators secure funding and construction of sites.
ACD primarily works with charter schools in Utah and Arizona but is looking to get involved here in Wake.
"I have seen what a great change giving parents a choice in the education of their children has made in the areas we have worked so far," Gwilliam said. "Why the Raleigh area? I really liked the people and the area when I was at Fort Bragg and I like the idea of being able to give back."
Columbia Academy is proposed to be a K-12 school, starting with 480 students and growing to 1,040. The programming hasn't been finalized yet, according to Norman George III of Raleigh, who filed the intent letter for Columbia.
Columbia is one of 10 schools that George filed intent letters for from New Hanover to Mecklenburg counties. George has been involved with charters schools in North Carolina since the mid-1990s.
“We see a lot of pent-up demand for the alternatives that charter schools can provide,” George said. “After the cap was removed, it’s sort of like seeing a dam break.”
Dynamic Community Charter School would target students who have developmental and/or intellectual disabilities. This would include students in self-contained classrooms (autism, intellectual disabilities-moderate and intellectual disabilities-severe) or in regular-education classrooms but are struggling.
Dynamic would offer grade 6-12 and serve a population not often found in charter schools. For various reasons, special-education students haven't typically been able to find charter schools that would meet their needs.
Diane Morris, a Cary parent of two Wake students with disabilities, said there's a clear need for a special-education focused charter school in this area.
Morris, the school’s founder, said they realize that they’ll need to do extensive fundraising because of the higher-than-average cost of educating students with special needs.
“All we’re asking for is a chance to make it work,” Morris said.
Envision Science Academy would be a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) based K-8 school that could eventually hold 648 students.
Monica Cutno, one of Envision's founders, said they're planning on locating the school in Wake Forest. Envision's board has been holding community meetings and reaching out to local officials to build support for the school.
“We’re getting significant support from the community” said Cutno, who lives in Wake Forest. “Everyday I hear we need it because Northern Wake lacks choices.”
Global Academy Charter School would target "students that show an acceleration in Academics as well as a strong interest in Athletics, Global Affairs or Professional Abilities." Tanya Johnson of Durham is listed as the contact person.
Paul Robeson Academic Academy would target disadvantaged students, according to Tyronne James of Durham, the CEO/Founder at Century 22 Consultations. James said he and other like-minded local professionals want to set up a charter in Wake and another in Durham.
“There’s definitely a need for educational leadership as it relates to disadvantaged and at-risk groups,” James said.
The Platinum School would serve students in grades 6-12 "who present with mild intellectual disabilities (I.Q. 65-85)." It would start with 100 to 150 students in the first year and add 30 more for each of the next five years.
The contact for Platinum is Randi Wolk of Raleigh.
PREP 360 Middle School for Boys "will assist in the development of boys as they transition to young adulthood" with a focus on character development, academic success and community development. It would start with 120 sixth-graders and add a new class of 120 for the following two years.
Charter schools are required to accept any student who applies with a lottery being used if there are more applicants than seats. If PREP opens, state education officials say the school would have to accept female students.
PREP's contact is listed as Norman Overstreet of Raleigh.
ROSEBUD Academy would target "children in the Urban Environment." it would be a K-8 school opening with all grade levels in the first year. It would have one class of 15 kids per grade.
ROSEBUD's contact is listed as Deatrice Raynor of Raleigh.
SMART Academy would target "students who are academically at-risk for not graduating and/or need greater individualized attention for knowledge and skill development." It's proposed to be a K-12 school with a 200-student K-8 campus and a 200-student high school campus.
SMART Academy's contact is Bruce Friend of Holly Springs, who was the first director of the N.C. Virtual Public School.
There's not much info on Southwest Preparatory Academy. The contact is listed Ernest Allen Taylor Jr. of Raleigh.
Wake Forest Charter Academy will "allow students to collaborate, and as a result, they will become independent thinkers to achieve academic success as they prepare for college and careers." It would be a K-8 school with up to 720 students.
Wake Forest Charter Academy's contact is Hilda Alston Parler, a Franklin County educator who will be retiring soon.
Parler had also submitted an intent letter for the Dr. Wavie and Minnie Alston Thinkers Academy. That school and the Wake Forest Charter Academy are one in the same.
Parler explained that the Michigan-based National Heritage Academies will manage the Wake Forest Charter Academy. She said NHA told her to submit a second letter of intent because the Thinkers Academy had too long a name.
National Heritage Academies manages several North Carolina charter schools, including Research Triangle Charter Academy in Durham and PreEminent Charter in Raleigh.
Wisdom Academy is back for a third try to open "an urban charter school that targets K-8 students in the Southeast Raleigh corridor."
Wisdom first filed a FAST TRACK application to open for the 2012-13 school year. It later filed to open for the 2013-14 school year but didn't make the cut.
In its previous application, Wisdom said it would be managed by GPS Management Services in Michigan.
Since students can attend any charter, click here for the intent letters for the 28 proposed Triangle charter schools that could open in 2014. You'll notice that several of the ones not located in Wake say they're hoping to attract students from here too.
Currently, the Wake County school system is paying for 6,229 students who live in the county but who attend charter schools. It's gone up by about 400 students a year for the past two years.
Could the number jump sharply with the charter cap gone?
Victoria Eschler’s son, Augie, is only 21-month-old, but the Raleigh mother was already attending an information session last week for Envision Science Academy. She’s studying alternatives to the Wake school system.
“We are firm, firm believers that education is the single most important thing,” Eschler said. “You keep hearing that the school board is going through all that turmoil.”
Wake County school board member Jim Martin said he’s not worried about the extra charter school competition. He said the schools in the district, particularly the high schools, all enjoy good reputations that will take the new charters years to achieve.
“We need to have strong academic programs,” Martin said. “As long as we do, I’m not concerned.”