Two new Triangle charter schools need to make significant progress to open

khui@newsobserver.com ahelms@charlotteobserver.comJune 16, 2014 

— Two new Triangle charter schools need to make substantial progress to open on schedule in August, according to a report presented Monday to a state advisory panel.

Dynamic Community Charter School in Raleigh and Reaching All Minds Academy in Durham both face problems – including funding and curriculum – that have to be resolved in the next 30 days, according to the report presented to the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board. But staff at the state Office of Charter Schools said they believe they can help all or most of the 25 new schools be ready in time.

Annie McKoy, chairwoman of the board of Reaching All Minds, said in an interview Monday that she has no doubt the school will open on schedule.

“We’re making great progress,” she said. “We’re going to open Aug. 18 without a shadow of a doubt.”

New charter schools were required to file “ready to open” reports by the end of May.

At that point, these schools are supposed to have 75 percent of their projected enrollment, 75 percent of their faculty identified for hiring, a suitable facility that can be occupied at least two weeks before opening day, and detailed academic and financial plans.

On Monday, the advisory board received a report on progress toward the 2014 openings. Of the 25 schools, 19 are listed as needing some follow-up, ranging from further documentation to mandatory meetings with state officials.

The six schools that were completely ready include Envision Science Academy opening in Raleigh and Wake Forest Charter Academy.

Six other schools are in a category called “sufficient progress,” meaning they still must submit some documentation. They include Anderson Creek Club Charter in Harnett County and Cardinal Charter in Cary.

Dynamic and Reaching All Minds were among eight schools listed as having made “slight progress,” meaning they’re the least ready to open. State staff raised concerns about the viability of their taxpayer-funded budgets.

State charter staff said Reaching All Minds didn’t have enough students to balance the budget. McKoy said that since May they’ve gotten more students interested in the school’s science, technology, engineering and math theme. McKoy said they’re also addressing other state concerns, including finishing.

At Dynamic, state officials found that the budget was lacking in details and heavily reliant on $160,000 in projected fundraising. Dynamic, which is a middle school and high school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has been holding bake sales to raise money.

Dynamic addressed at least one of the state’s concerns this month by signing a lease for a building on 5510 Munford Road in Raleigh after the school’s initial building plans had fallen through.

“We had to dedicate a great amount of time to finding a new location, and there were some plans we simply couldn’t move ahead with until we had a location,” said Diane Morris, the school’s founder. “But now that we have a great building for our school, the board is working very hard to get everything else in place.”

State Charter School Director Joel Medley said his staff will continue to work with the start-up schools. He said his staff could recommend that the State Board of Education delay openings for any schools that continue to fall short on enrollment, facilities or planning and preparation.

“We do have some that we’re concerned about,” he said after the advisory board meeting.

Medley also told the advisory board that Kestrel Heights School in Durham is being penalized for failing to comply with the N.C. Open Meetings Law. The school had been granted a five-year charter extension, but that is being reduced to three years because, Medley said, the Kestrel Heights board has failed to provide public notice of meetings and to follow proper procedure for closed sessions.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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