NC Board of Education unanimously votes not to renew Carrboro charter

jalexander@newsobserver.comFebruary 6, 2014 

— The State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday not to renew a struggling charter school based on the recommendation of the state’s charter school advisory board.

Last month, PACE Academy, which opened in 2004, was one of two charter schools the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board recommended not be renewed.

PACE, with about 160 students in grades 9 through 12, had financial problems and low graduation rates. Its students tested poorly compared to those attending the surrounding Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district. The office has also questioned PACE’s relationship with a basketball academy that sends most of its high school players to the school.

State board members acknowledged the students who came to Thursday’s meeting to show their support for keeping their schools open.

State board member John Tate said the students shouldn’t consider their decision to be a reflection on anything they had done, but “regrettably it has been a case of non-performance by the administrators of those schools.”

“It’s a tough decision, but it’s the right decision,” Tate said.

Efforts to reach school officials were unsuccessful.

Decision can be appealed

“These are not easy decisions and not taken lightly. But a unanimous decision of the advisory board says a lot,” said Joel Medley, director of the Office of Charter Schools, in an interview Wednesday.

Medley said PACE will have 60 days to appeal with the Office of Administrative Hearings.

In 2012, a charter school in Morehead City appealed and the decision was overturned. However, the state board also voted Thursday to let the charter for that school, now called Coastal Academy for Technology and Science, expire on June 30.

PACE officials said earlier that comparing its test scores to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district is unfair because more than half of its students are considered exceptional children, meaning each has one or more disabilities.

Chapel Hill-Carborro City Schools Superintendent Tom Forcella wrote a letter to the N.C. Board of Education supporting PACE because it provided students with behavioral problems an alternative. Currently, CHCCS has only one alternative school, Phoenix Academy.

“Phoenix is full,” Forcella said in an interview. “We’ll have to think about working with our three comprehensive high schools if those parents do decide to bring their kids back.”

The Office of Charter Schools is also looking into PACE’s involvement with Bull City Prep Academy, a for-profit club basketball team. Nine of club’s high school team’s 11 players attend PACE, and the club’s website had listed the school as a sponsor.

PACE officials say they have no relationship with Bull City Prep Academy and that coach Darryl Harris had mistakenly listed the school when he filled out the template for the website. It has since been corrected.

Staff writer Keung Hui contributed to this story

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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