/Charter school groups from Greenwood, Vicksburg, Pike and Canton advance to next stage

Charter school groups from Greenwood, Vicksburg, Pike and Canton advance to next stage

Nonprofit Mississippi News: If the prospective school founders succeed this year, Mississippi’s charter school movement could expand beyond the Jackson area where four of five schools currently operate. Five potential schools were approved by the Charter School Authorizer Board at a meeting this week. * MS Delta Academies, grades 6-8, Greenwood Public School district * Randy J. Naylor Memorial Fund: Memorial Preparatory Academy, grades 5-6 in Vicksburg Warren School Division * SR1 : SR1 College Preparatory & STEM Academy, grades 5 in the Canton Public School District * KC Schools, Inc. : Kingdom Charter School, grades 12 in South Pike School Department * Mississippi Community Education Centre: Greenwood Charter School, grades 5-8 in Greenwood Public School. All applicants except KC Schools, Inc. There are currently five charter schools in Jackson and Clarksdale that serve a variety of grades K-8. A new high school will open in 2020-21. Two K-8 schools will open in Jackson this autumn. The authorizer board takes months to screen potential operators before granting them permission to open schools in Mississippi. The board usually announces which schools will be permitted to proceed in the process in June. Operators submit their applications by May. The potential operators meet in August for interviews and evaluations. September 9th will see the board’s final decision. The Greenwood operators applied just in time. The Greenwood Public and Leflore county school districts will merge on July 1. Their new accountability rating will make opening charter schools in that district difficult in the future. If a charter school is planning to open in a district D or F, they can directly apply to the authorizer board. The local school board must approve any operator who wants to open in A, B, and/or C districts. This is often unlikely because many traditional school supporters are resentful of charter schools, arguing that charter schools drain funds, staff, and students from local areas. Greenwood was given a D rating for 2017-18, while Leflore County received a C rating. According to state law, the new consolidated district receives the highest accountability rating. The Mississippi Department of Education will issue accountability grades for each district, even though the two districts will merge by then. According to the department, the consolidated school district will be given a combined grade beginning in the 2019-20 school school year. The authorizer board can approve the MS Delta Academies and Mississippi Community Education Center’s applications to open in Greenwood, instead of having them approved by a school board. Rachel Canter, executive Director of Mississippi First, an advocacy nonprofit for public schools, stated that eligibility is determined by the district’s grade at the time of the application. Mississippi First focuses on expanding charter school options as well as pre-kindergarten programs. “Once a charter has been approved in a district it can continue operating there regardless of its grade.” The potential Greenwood operators claim they have not faced any opposition from the community. Mississippi Today reached out to both districts for comment. Tamala Boyd Shaw plans to open Leflore Legacy Academy. She stated that her goal is “make sure there’s a mind shift among the students, families, and the community about the benefits of public charter schools.” “This is due to the lack of information about charter schools.” Charter schools are public schools that are free and follow the same academic standards and accountability as traditional public schools. However, they give teachers and administrators more freedom to teach students. Boyd Shaw stated that her middle school would be able to get students reading at grade level if approved. Greenwood’s third-grade reading assessments were passed by 49.6% of students this year. However, they still have two attempts to pass the assessment before next year. She said that although the school will not be open until 2020, students with struggling reading skills would likely be enrolled in it. Boyd Shaw stated that the school’s goal is to provide an equitable education to all families. Cassandra Williams, the education liaison for Greenwood Charter School is the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center. The school has a STEAM (science technology, engineering and arts) focus. She said that the proposed school would complement the existing work of the nonprofit. Nancy New, the proposed charter school’s executive director, is also the founder and founder of New Summit Schools throughout the state. Williams stated that this gives Williams an opportunity to use the education expertise and extend it to parents who might not be able afford private school tuition. Williams stated that “we have so much experience and expertise in education and we want that we can make that available to all parents.” In early July, the charter school authorizer board will announce which applicants will be moving forward.