Mike Klein Online

One Unusual Week: “Everything Happened in Such a Hectic Fashion”

Mike Klein

Nina Gilbert was waiting to board a plane Friday when she paused to discuss the unusual week in Georgia charter schools history.  “Everything happened in such a hectic fashion,” said Gilbert, who is head of school at Ivy Prep Academy in Norcross.  “I feel most pressured to be able to inform my parents that school will start without a hitch.  This is incredibly urgent.”

Ivy Prep Academy in Norcross and Cherokee Charter Academy in Canton lost their operating charters on Monday when the Supreme Court struck down the Charter Schools Commission.  Some 16,500 students must consider new options and 16 schools face unknown futures.

Thursday evening Ivy Prep and Cherokee Charter schools asked local boards of education for new charters.  Both schools will have to wait a bit longer as neither board voted on Thursday.

Ivy Prep applied to the Gwinnett public schools board which turned down Ivy Prep’s request three years ago.  Gwinnett was also the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case.  “We need believers,” Ivy Prep’s Gilbert said.  “We need people who believe in what we do so the academic routines of our girls are not interrupted while the adults figure out what to do.”

Gwinnett turned down a school in theory three years ago but now its five board members must decide whether to grant a local charter or close an existing school and endure the reaction to that decision.  Ivy Prep enrolled 450 middle school girls this year.  About 60% live in Gwinnett; the next largest student group is from DeKalb County.  Ivy plans to start ninth grade this fall.

“We requested an extension to collaborate with Gwinnett County to ensure any questions can be answered to their satisfaction,” Gilbert said.  The next Gwinnett board meeting is June 16.  “We will meet any timeline to make sure (our families) can enroll this fall,” Gilbert said. “That is really the most important one to me, our families.”

Whereas Ivy Prep is working to save its fourth school year, Cherokee Charter Academy is trying to save its first.  The Canton-based brick-and-mortar charter school acquired a building large enough for 1,150 students and this fall it would open with about 950 students in grades K-8.

Cherokee Charter Academy applied to the Cherokee public schools board.  “It’s a very different (school) board from the one that turned us down and we are very grateful for that,” said parent advocate Lyn Michaels-Carden.  “They are very receptive.”  Three new school board members were elected last November. The board could vote on Cherokee Charter at its June 16 meeting.

Michaels-Carden is former radio personality turned marketing executive who is also Cherokee Charter Academy’s designated liaison between state and local education boards.  She fully expected to send her daughter to first grade this fall at Cherokee Charter.

“Cherokee is one of the top-performing counties in the state for education. Having said that, Georgia is 47th in the country and I have a very bright child,” Michaels-Carden said. “I want to see her challenged. I want to see her get the best education that she can and I think this school will offer that to her.  She is in a great school now but I think I owe her the best.”

Michaels-Carden said Cherokee supporters are optimistic.  “This has been quite an experience.”

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

May 23, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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