A last ditch attempt to save one of the state’s oldest charter schools fell through, leaving Charlotte’s Community Charter School likely to close for good at the end of this school year.
State law allows for the possibility that instead of shutting down a poor performing charter school, another nonprofit board experienced in running a charter school could “assume” that charter school’s operations and keep it alive—but under new management. The state decided to allow for that option with Community Charter School, which has struggled to attract students and improve the academic success of those currently enrolled. The school received a grade of “F” for the past three years in a row.
This week members of the Charter School Advisory Board finished considering a proposal to assume CCS from Global Education Resources, LLC, a North Carolina-based education management organization (EMO) that has experience operating other charter schools, including Torchlight Academy, Quality Education Academy, and Alpha Academy.
CSAB members said they had confidence in the EMO—but the state must grant a charter to the non-profit board with which an EMO partners, not the EMO itself. That non-profit, Northside Community Outreach, Inc., didn’t appear “legally viable,” according to the chair of the oversight committee, Alex Quigley.
Citing significant turnover on Northside’s board and the dissolution of their bylaws, among other issues, Quigley said the pitch to takeover the Charlotte charter school “didn’t meet the threshold that we would feel comfortable with to move forward with the assumption.”
Another charter school’s board—Community School of Davidson—also submitted a proposal to assume CCS, but they withdrew their pitch at the eleventh hour. A key sticking point? No facility.
“Couldn’t work out an arrangement to keep the facility,” said Office of Charter Schools’ director David Machado. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will sell the building, Machado said, and with no facility to move into, that barrier tipped the scales for the Community School of Davidson operators.
What will happen to the students who remain at Community Charter School? OCS’ Machado said all but eleven students at CCS have already been placed at other charter schools for the next school year, and the school will keep its doors open for the rest of the 2016-17 academic year.
It appears that once the state decides to move toward closing a charter school, the window of opportunity for another charter operator to swoop in and take over closes rather quickly. Word that Community Charter School may close came last November,and although the state opened the door for assumption, students apparently began looking for alternative educational options quickly—and the facility also slipped away.
“To assume a charter, I would expect that you’d have an enrollment of students in the current school and you would have the current’s school’s facility — neither one of those seemed to be there,” said CSAB member Joe Maimone. “It sounds to me more it’d be like a new charter, not an assumption of a current charter.”
The State Board of Education has the final say on whether or not the assumption of Community Charter School goes forward—but given the CSAB’s unanimous vote against the pitch, the State Board is likely to agree to allow the school’s charter to expire at the end of this school year. That means the charter school will close unless they were to successfully appeal the State Board’s decision—a scenario that seems unlikely given how few students appear interested in remaining and the loss of their facility.
Check out this story by the Charlotte Observer’s Ann Doss Helms for more background on Community Charter School, which opened in Charlotte in 1997.