07/22/13 — New elementary charter school on track for opening in August 2014

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New elementary charter school on track for opening in August 2014

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 22, 2013 1:46 PM


Organizers of a proposed second charter school in the county are moving ahead with plans to open in August 2014 with 466 students in grades K-4, said Dr. Ken Benton, president of Academics Plus, a tutoring service.

Benton said he was notified last week that the N.C. Public Charter School Advisory Council had voted to recommend that the State Board of Education grant Wayne Preparatory Academy a preliminary charter.

"We feel like we will be approved by the state board because we have been approved by the charter school subcommittee," he said. "What happens now is we begin to move toward fulfilling our obligation as board members. Over the next several months, training, administration of the school. And then our hope is that sometime the first of the year we'll hire a managing director, who'll be in charge of running the day-to-day operation of the school."

In addition to securing an administrator, Benton said other priorities include hiring teachers and securing a site for the school.

"Our hope is to be in a position that our first place that we'll locate will in fact become our campus," he said. "Our pre-plan is to go with modular units (trailers) but put them on the campus that we hope to build on."

Benton, who serves as chairman of the board for the proposed school, said although everything is still preliminary, an extensive plan had to be prepared for the charter school advisory council.

"The first year is K-4, the second year will be K-5," he said, with grades 6-8 being added incrementally in subsequent years. "Right now that's the grant that we have. We don't have a grant now for high school."

The grant, he explained, is not a monetary one but rather a legal document that says they have the right to run a school.

There is currently one charter school in Goldsboro. Dillard Academy, on Elm Street, was started in 1998 and serves students in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools, but are governed differently by non-profit organizations. Unlike traditional public schools, though, they must demonstrate success or lose the charter.

North Carolina charter schools were established in 1996 by N.C. House Bill 955, also known as the Charter School Act, in an effort to improve the academic chances and performance of students considered at-risk.

Until recently, though, there was a cap on the number of charter schools the state could have. It could not exceed 100. That changed in 2011, when the General Assembly voted to remove the cap, allowing an unlimited number of charter schools in the state.

The process to establish and open a charter school is a slow one, though, Benton said.

"Applications were due March 1 and they didn't have the hearing until July 15," he said. "To do all the things we (still) need to do, we'll need a year."

Funding is based on the number of students at the school.

"We will get state dollars, we will get local dollars, federal dollars, pretty much like the local schools are funded," he said. "The first-year goal is 466 kids, about 100 kids per grade.

"We get state dollars for per pupil expense. The county commission would give us local dollars."

A charter school also has a bit more flexibility with its curriculum, he noted. While it will still follow the common core, it will also incorporate other models, such as the Gallup Learning Path and Steven Covey's Effective Leadership.

Several public meetings have already been held to determine local interest in the additional charter school. And while applications are not being accepted yet, a website has been set up with information about the offering. Parents can also fill out an interest form, Benton said. The site address is www.wayneprepnc.org.

"I think it's a great day for Wayne County," he said of the latest announcement. "Parents have more choices now. They also have a choice within the public school system to choose a school that's outside the parameters of the local school board and to do more experimental things.

"We're excited about it and we're on go with it."