John Konop, parent of a student at Freedom Middle School, expressed concern about a conversation with School Board member Michael Geist about Cherokee Charter Academy and the school’s funding as a public charter school.
Addressing the board, he said his concern was that if CCA decided to close mid-year and send students back to district schools, there would be no penalty. Additionally, he said he was concerned about whether the board supports charter schools.
“(Geist) told me … he said this is the identical way, in his terms, the identical way that you deal with all vendors,” Konop said.
In an interview Friday, Konop said: “This is a very simple issue to me, and it comes down to this: if a private company gets seed money to start a business from taxpayers and don’t have to pay back and then get contract…It’s designed as if that school, in middle of year, sends back 1,000 kids, there’s no penalty.”
Geist did not address Konop at the meeting, but Chapman advised Konop the board voted at its April 20 meeting against House Resolution 1162, the state constitutional amendment that would enable a state-level, appointed charter school commission to create and fund charter schools.
Geist said in an interview Friday that the brief conversation the speaker was referring to was held at a Cherokee County Republican Party meeting and said he is interested in better understanding Konop’s position on the matter. Geist said Konop seemed to be critical that CCA uses a private management company.
“As far as the risk to taxpayers concern, my impression to him was that in terms of understanding how the state pays money to CCA and how money goes to (Charter Schools USA, the charter school’s management company) is handled the same way with the same level of control that they hand out money to school district over the state,” Geist said.
“It’s tough sometimes to know where questions like that are coming from,” Geist said. “I don’t know that I clearly understand what he was trying to say. I do want to take time to address what (his) actual concern is.”
Also during public input, Kathy Thompson, a representative for Cherokee P.A.N.T.S., or People Advocating the Need for Transparent Funding in Schools, came out in support of the board’s April 20 resolution opposing HR 1162.
“Cherokee P.A.N.T.S. is not opposed to charter schools, school choice or school options,” Thompson said. “We’re opposed to bigger state government and more appointed bureaucrats.”
Thompson cited a news story from the Tribune’s Thursday edition that said Gov. Nathan Deal has given $19 million in grants to improve charter school performance.
The grant gives nine Georgia programs and schools monies from federal Race To The Top funds, according to a press release from the governor’s office. Three of the nine included in the release are charter schools or directed toward charter-related efforts.
“This is an example of why we should vote ‘No’ on 1162,” Thompson said. “When our state legislators are that far removed from our local issues and problems, overcrowded classrooms and furlough days, then how could we entrust them with looking out for our Georgia educational interests? $19 million could have afforded a minimum of 287 teachers.”
In other business, after the executive session, the board returned and unanimously voted to sell the former Ball Ground Elementary School to the city of Ball Ground.
According to the real estate sales contract and intergovernmental agreement, the purchase price of the property is set at $644,495. The city has paid $35,000 to the district so far and will accept the property as-is upon closing.