Amid renewal, charter school mulls addition
by Megan Thornton
October 26, 2012 01:25 AM | 3690 views | 7 7 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — With Cherokee Charter Academy’s charter renewal quickly approaching, the academy is eyeing the possibility of adding a high school.

Georgia Charter Educational Foundation Chairwoman Lyn Carden announced Thursday that the school will be petitioning the state for the addition of a high school.

Carden, who made the announcement following a teleconference meeting, gave little detail on the high school plans, including where the proposed facility would be located.

“We are working out the details right now,” Carden said.

The information came after the seven-member Board of Directors voted to approve the “expansion” of Cherokee Charter Academy as well as both renewal petition applications for Cherokee Charter Academy and Coweta Charter Academy, provided all changes requested by board members are included.

Carden said Cherokee Charter Academy is in the final stages of applying to the state special schools division of the Georgia Department of Education for a five-year charter. The deadline is Nov. 1 and the school will know if its charter is renewed by February, Carden said.

“The final draft is in process and being reviewed,” Carden said at the previous day’s local governing council meeting at the school. “It will be on time to the Department of Education.”

Carden said the school will be notified of the status of the application and subsequently be notified of when the school’s panel interview will be.

According to the state department’s website, the panel will include GaDOE representatives and at least one outside charter expert. Many renewal applicants will also be selected for a site visit from Charter Schools Division personnel and are notified 48 hours in advance.

The statewide Nov. 6 vote on the constitutional amendment to reauthorize the state charter schools commission could change which entity the school will re-apply to in the future, but the school is still subject to its current chartering authority despite the outcome of the amendment vote.

Carden reminded board members of the upcoming vote during the meeting.

“It’s going to be close,” Carden said. “Tell all of your family and friends I strongly encourage them to vote with their hearts.”

The school is facing a charter renewal after its first two years because it was granted a charter by the state Board of Education after a May 2011 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court declared the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, the board that originally approved its charter, unconstitutional.

The charter grant from the state followed a third denial in two years from Cherokee County Board of Education.

Also during Thursday’s GCEF meeting, the board voted 7-0 to appoint Danny Dukes, who now serves as treasurer, as its certified financial officer. Carden said the role is not a paid position.

The board also unanimously approved voting by a simple majority rather than absentee or by proxy as discussed at the previous meeting.

Judith Brown, financial analyst for CSUSA, presented the financials that were also approved by Cherokee Charter’s LGC on Wednesday. Brown said the school is seeing “slight (budget) unfavorability” due to timing, but anticipates realizing missed revenue by the end of the year.

The school’s expenses were higher than budgeted for the month of September by almost $67,000, but Brown said this was due to accrued wages that should be spread over 10 months. Total expenses were $877,618 while only $810,830 was budgeted.

The school paid almost $9,000 more than budgeted last month in water and sewer fees because of the additional use by Watermarke Church that had been identified at last month’s meeting. Carden said the church has installed a meter and Charter Schools USA is in the process of sending an invoice for the fees.

“It’s going to come in the 10 to 11,000 range, from my understanding,” Carden said.

Total revenues were also $26,268 lower than expected but only off by about 1 percent, with a lower participation rate than expected in food services but a higher participation rate in before and after care. The school saw almost $1.95 million in total revenues.

Board member Bob Young asked what the line item “professional services – fees” entailed, as it was a “growing item” that contains no budgeted funds. The line item amounted to $13,725 in the month of September.

Carden said that includes strategic planning and board development.

“That information wasn’t communicated at that time when the budget was being formulated, unfortunately,” Brown said.

Overall, the school’s annual forecast of $118,998 is $25,888 short, but the change in fund balance over the last month is up by $30,324 at $199,642.

“There are a number of months to go between now and end of the year that will be slightly unfavorable to budget,” Brown said.

At Wednesday’s LGC meeting, Principal Vanessa Suarez advised council members that for the month of September 1,005 students were enrolled with 99 percent of students in attendance, which tops the school’s budgeted enrollment of 995. Of the 1,005 enrolled, 19 are new students and 127 potential students are on the wait list.

Six students withdrew in September, with two citing transportation issues, one indicating the school is not a good fit and three returning to home school.

Suarez said a fifth-grade math teacher was deemed not a good fit in September and has since been replaced.

Council Chairwoman Heather Blevins said she is also still in the process of identifying two new board members, one from the community and one parent board member to replace Carden, as she has decided to step down from the role effective Jan. 1 but will maintain her role as chair on the GCEF Board of Directors.

The LGC will hold its last meeting of the year Nov. 28 at 10 a.m. at Cherokee Charter Academy. The next GCEF meeting will be held via teleconference Nov. 29 at 10 a.m.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
November 03, 2012
Parents and community, please heed WARNING before you enroll your children in this school. I have a

Bachelors degree in education so my review is very honest. Please feel free to email me and I will be glad to

share with you my personal and honest opinion with the experience I had with administration. It will shock you. Email:

—Submitted by a parent
confused & concerned
October 26, 2012
"Board member Bob Young asked what the line item “professional services – fees” entailed, as it was a “growing item” that contains no budgeted funds. The line item amounted to $13,725 in the month of September"

This is very concerning to me as it seem to be a large amount of money that is not accounted for in their budget. To whom was that money paid? Is there something concrete to show for it?

I also am confused about the request for a HS. How can they submit a request when all of the plans have not been outlined? With the budget shortfalls they are exoeriencing, now is not the time for an expansion. Maybe they should operate for a few years in the black before they look to grow.

Read more: Cherokee Tribune - Amid renewal charter school mulls addition
October 26, 2012
I'm a bit confused. The charter school is expected to come in at a loss for the second year in a row and is planning to add a high school? I don't understand how this will turn things around, it seems like the cost disadvantage is too skewed at this point in time. Also, the same group wants us to vote yes on Amendment one and is telling us that without its passage, all charter schools will close. I find it hard to believe that CCA would be going through the trouble to add a high school or renew its current charter if that were the case. The state DOE just renewed or allowed charters for 6 schools in the last couple of months. Again, I don't think this would have happened knowing that they would be shut down January 1st. I'm tired of all the lies and misinformation being spread by certain groups. Don't get me wrong, because I truly hope for CCAs success, because it helps my children by not having children whose parents want something different from taking up a desk in their classroom. Voting NO on Amendment one will not change what can or will happen as far as the charter approval process.
October 26, 2012
Ms. Poole, my child is at CCA and it is a wonderful fit. I would think as a parent you would want all children to succeed. Also, if Romney is elected you can expect more over-crowded classrooms and less funding.
Vote YES to 1162
October 26, 2012
Kelly Poole, your argument is a microcosm of the absurdity of the NO crowd.

"I truly hope for CCA's success because it helps my kids' classroom size....but I'm going to vote NO anyway."

Yet if the amendment doesn't pass, CCA could close...which would put 1000 kids back into these very classrooms you seek to keep smaller!! Back into a district that failed miserably at educating the students the first time around and that allegedly doesn't have the money to educate them now! I.E. Your argument is laughably absurd.

I too am tired of the lies being spread - the main one being that you NO crowds 'like charter schools..', which is a flat-out fallacy. You NO people heap dispersion onto all charter parents but then pretend to want unity. You vote against the amendment and every pro-charter candidate. You've no ideas --nor interest-- in educational improvement - only echoing whatever nonsense the overpaid superintendent tells you. You complain about funding while bending over backwards to explain why our superintendent should make $300K and get a monthly vehicle stipend while we battle a recession.

It's also interesting that no alleged lack of funding in CCSD prevents our BOE from approving tens of millions of $$$ in new buildings. But the hypocrisy of the NO crowd says it's bad for charters to look to the future, as CCA seems to be doing here.

Vote YES to 1162 and no to hypocrites who hate school choice and educational progress.
Golden Rule
October 29, 2012
Vote YES: A few bad apples in the charter school basket started the divide, by 1) demanding school board members renounce their Republican affiliation or change their vote on the charter school (none of the other six Republican county school boards who rejected this school multiple times were treated that way); 2) fighting to defeat the Education SPLOST; 3) publicly saying they would "take over the school board" with pro-charter candidates; and 4) promoting the legislative delegation's vendetta of post-only voting (which backfired on you). You personally may have had nothing to do with any of the above, but your school's "leaders" were waist deep in all of it. If the amendment fails, you'll only have them to look to for "leadership." Good luck.
Vote YES to 1162
October 29, 2012
The divide was started by the liberal, pro-Tax & Spend, accountability-hating NO crowd. Those 'bad apples' were in direct response to Mike Chapman's insistence that "If you don't like (the mediocre education you're currently paying for), you can just move!". The NO crowd helped preside over a system that failed 1000s of children yet was deadset against making any real change to it and is still so.

It's not a newsflash that Republicans would want alleged Republican BOE members to adhere to a plank of the GOP Platform, which Charter Schools are.

Nor is it news for Republicans to be against needless tax increases, which is what E-SPLOST is.

What is a newsflash is that so many alleged elected 'Republicans' aren't. What's next - teacher unions from these faux conservatives? I probably shouldn't give them any Chicago-style'd ideas.

Apparently, it IS too much to expect elected officials to adhere to the platform they claimed to be a part of. Instead, it's just superintendent sycophancy. Why the NO crowd worships a man who is deadset on furloughing as many teachers as possible to protect his lucrative salary package is one of life's mysteries. I think it's a case of the Stockholm Syndrome with many of the NO crowd. That, or just extremely low expectations of excellence.

I'm voting YES to give parents a way of bypassing these extremely-rude, small-minded, backward-thinking people. Some parents want more out of education than the ability to pass mulitple-choice tests.

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