After finishing the school’s first year in operation, the Local Governing Council for Cherokee Charter Academy met Wednesday to discuss preparations for the next school year, including the preliminary budget.
“We definitely had a fantastic year,” Principal Vanessa Suarez said after the meeting. “We started basically with two weeks to prepare for the new school year. You’re always going to have some challenges … but overall, we ended the year on a great note.”
“I see more positives than challenges,” Suarez said of the coming year, noting the staff will have two months to prepare for students to return to school in the fall rather than the much shorter period of time granted last year.
The school’s total enrollment of 823 students for the month of April is a decrease of two from March, both of whom withdrew citing the school as not a good fit.
The school reports having 770 students recommitted to attend in the fall, with 131 newly enrolled and 360 students on the waitlist. Suarez said school officials expect to have a full enrollment of 995 students for the 2012-13 school year.
Despite recent rumors of public firings, there have been no new hirings or firings within the last month, Suarez said.
“We haven’t had any staffing changes this school year,” Suarez said. “They have changed for next school year.”
She said that any changes to staffing for the upcoming year were a personnel matter.
Other allegations have been made regarding improper grading practices, but officials with the school put those to rest at the meeting as well as in an email sent to the local governing council Tuesday evening.
Sherry Hage, vice president of education for Charter Schools USA, also said that the rumors circulating in the community about falsifying grades are not true.
“We investigated this information, and not one individual has provided me, or anyone at CSUSA, with any evidence regarding grade changes or questionable practices,” Hage wrote in the letter.
Hage said anyone with concerns about students’ grades or evidence of misconduct regarding grading practices should contact her immediately.
“Student success is 100 percent based on mastery of skill and anything else will not be tolerated,” Hage said in the letter.
“Our doors are open,” said Richard Page, vice president of operations for CSUSA, noting that any parents or teachers with these concerns are encouraged to report them to school officials.
“We welcome that opportunity because we’re not going to sacrifice integrity in our schools,” Page said.
At the meeting, Suarez said schoolwide results for the Criterion Referenced Competency Test will be presented at next month’s meeting to be on June 27.
Page also presented a preliminary budget to the council which will be voted on a next month’s meeting.
Highlights of the tentative budget include $7.4 million in anticipated Quality Basic Education funding from the state and $207,712 in food service revenue, leaving the total operating revenue for the school at $7.6 million for the year.
As for the school’s expenses, officials anticipate spending close to $175,540 in total capital expenditures with a surplus of $90,903 in the operating budget.
Expenditures include $4.4 million in staff compensation and benefits, $1 million in professional services, almost $400,000 in vendor services, about $53,000 in administrative expenses, about $300,000 in instructional expenses, about $415,000 in other operating expenses and about $929,000 in fixed expenses.
School officials anticipate $14,003 in surplus before and aftercare revenue and $57,000 in Title I funding, leaving the total school funds at a surplus of $161,906 for the 2012-13 school year.
Also during the meeting, the council discussed four requests for proposals from certified public accountants to audit the school’s books for the year ending June 30. No action was taken as cost information for one of the responding firms was unclear.
Lyn Carden, who attended via teleconference, suggested gathering the information to present at the Georgia Charter Educational Foundation meeting on Tuesday and the council decided to delay voting on the matter until the next meeting.
The council also voted to approve Byron Greene of Woodstock as its newest member. Green has spent the past 34 years in elementary through high school education.
Most recently, Greene worked at the International School of Kabul, the first college preparatory kindergarten through 12th grade international school in Afghanistan. He was the founding director and administrator from 2005 to 2009, and then served as the school’s political action and development advisor in 2009 and 2010.