Two proposed Raleigh charter schools could offer stiff competition to the Wake County school system.
The proposed Longleaf School of the Arts would be a high school focused on the fine arts "inspired by the curriculum of the North Carolina Governor's School." The proposed Wisdom Academy "is an urban charter school that targets K-8 students in the Southeast Raleigh corridor of Wake County."
With the charter cap a thing of the past, the State Board of Education is more likely to approve both schools opening for the 2013-14 school year if they've got a good enough business plan.
The Governor's School is a five-week summer program serving academically gifted high school seniors from across the state. The future of the program has been imperiled by state budget cuts.
Some of the people involved with the Governor's School are helping out with Longleaf's charter application. The main contact for Longleaf is Emily Orr, a music instructor and area coordinator for the Governor's School.
Another member of the Longview board of directors is J. Michael McElreath, director of Governor's School East. He will also oversee the mentoring program in which many of the members of the Governor's School faculty have agreed to help Longleaf's staff.
Longleaf's recommendation letters includes ones from the Governor's School Alumni Association and the Governor's School Foundation.
Longleaf's application promotes the need for a college preparatory school with a fine arts focus.
"Currently, Wake County has one arts magnet high school only," the application says. "The opening of an additional arts based school will allow many of Wake County's most aspiring arts students to study alongside other developing artists.
Studies have shown that students involved in the fine arts may develop better study and time management skills, are often more focused on task, seek creative responses/solutions rather than simply repeating memorized answers, and exhibit a higher level of self-discipline and self-confidence."
Every Longleaf student would be required to declare a fine arts track (Music, Visual Art, Theatre, Dance) and complete the required coursework to complete that track.
In terms of the location, the application says they've been in talks with a property owner whose property "is centrally located in Wake County, is on a (Raleigh) city bus route, and would be conducive to allowing LSA to immediately begin a vibrant performing arts program." But Longleaf says it's not able to provide any further details about the property.
It looks like Longview would be locally run since it says it has no plans to contract with an education management organization or a charter support organization.
But Longleaf says it has contracted with a company to provide financial services. This unnamed company provided the financial startup budget for the application. Longleaf says it will continue the contract with them through at least the first five years that the school is in operation.
As for Wisdom, the board of directors is local but the day-to-day operations would be managed by GPS Management Services in Michigan. According to the application, GSM has been involved with Detroit's charter school movement.
Wisdom is pretty critical of the existing Southeast Raleigh schools to say why it's needed.
"Residents of the southeast corridor of Raleigh have few quality options regarding their children’s elementary education," says the application. "Of the four elementary schools, three charter schools, and one private school, only one had more than 80% of its students meeting or exceeding North Carolina’s proficiency standards. The sad reality is that the students who attend these failing schools are disproportionately poor and minority, most of whom are African-American."
Wisdom says it expects its "typical student will be minority, poor, and academically at-risk.'" Wisdom says it can reach these students through "various instructional delivery methods geared to match various student learning styles." They say these methods include "project-based, experiential, service based,and technology-based, all geared to creating meaningful experiences and learning opportunities for our students."
Wisdom says it will try to attract a diverse enrollment, But the application recognizes that it will likely draw a largely African-American population.
The application says Wisdom has formed partnerships with local universities such as St. Augustine’s College because "research has shown that African-American public school students who have African-American university mentors exhibit increases in student engagement in learning, fewer behavioral problems, reduced dropout rates, and higher attendance."
Wisdom plans to provide bus service.
Wisdom will be located at Solid Rock Ministry International Building at 410 Lord Berkley Road.