Charter board has big plans in upcoming year
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
January 26, 2013 12:02 AM | 5198 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA — The Georgia Charter Educational Foundation, the nonprofit board governing Cherokee Charter Academy, has big plans for the year ahead.

The board met Thursday at McGuire Woods LLP in Atlanta and discussed moving forward after both CCA and Coweta Charter Academy, the other school the board governs, received five-year extensions as state special charter schools.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board went into executive session to discuss a personnel matter, but took no action upon returning.

Board members in attendance were Chair Lyn Carden, Danny Dukes, Christine Ries, Frederick Black and John McIntyre. Others in attendance were Charter Schools USA Senior Development Manager Sandy Castro and Danny Brewington, partner at Ed Innovation Partners LLC.

Several others called in via teleconference, including Vice Chair Marian Parker and Cherokee Charter Academy principal Vanessa Suarez.

At Wednesday’s Local Governing Council meeting held at the school, Castro and Dukes both said there would not be a public phone line available for the meeting as has been previously used by the board.

When asked about the phone line Friday, Carden said since GCEF is a statewide board, the law only requires notification to the public regarding the meeting and its location.

“Just as you would not expect the local school district to provide you a call-in number when it meets, boards do not provide call-in numbers for ‘in-person’ meetings, only when the board is meeting by teleconference,” Carden said. “We did, and in the future will, however, require reports from people who do not attend in person. Because they were reporting at the board’s request and were expected to speak, they were provided a phone number to do so.”

Near the end of Thursday’s meeting, Carden discussed what the next steps are for the board moving forward.

“We are thrilled for our stakeholders and for the continuation of the development of the board,” Carden said. “Now the real work begins for those two schools.”

Carden said the petitions included the addition of a high school for Cherokee and expansion of Coweta.

“We are working toward that with our management partner and our development partner,” Carden said. “As well as now identifying a facility and determining what that facility is going to look like for Cherokee.”

She said the petition process involved working closely with the state special schools division of the DOE, which led to Cherokee Charter’s middle school students taking a survey about which Career Pathways they wanted to potentially participate in so the school could plan accordingly for high school curricula, plans and strategies.

Career Pathways is part of the state’s new College and Career Ready Performance Index.

“As you know from the last three years, this is an incredibly hard thing to do… so I think it should be hard to get the approval,” Carden said.

Carden said the board has signed letters of intent signifying the continuation of its partnership with Florida-based Red Apple Development LLC, per the request of the state Department of Education.

She said she did not have a final version of the charter contract but would forward the information to board members as soon as she received it.

Brewington also discussed his plans for the board to expand and add new members from around the state following both schools’ charter approvals and the approval of Amendment 1.

“We’re on the other side of both of those and… the state is hungry for new schools,” Brewington said. “This board has to continually evolve and ratchet itself up as an organization.”

Ries created an expanded committee structure for the board that was incorporated into both charter petitions, Carden said.

“We’ve got to start recruiting people,” Reis said. “Tap your networks and talk to people that hopefully have some experience, especially in the area where we’re going to be growing.”

Additionally, the board approved November and December financials for both Coweta and Cherokee and also heard the fiscal year 2012 audit report.

A single audit report was conducted for CCA, as it had an excess of $500,000 in start-up funds from a federal implementation grant. There were no findings or questionable costs, Bill Benson, CPA with Keefe McCollough, said via teleconference.

Suarez gave a school report and was asked by Black whether the school has initiated discussions about school safety in response to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Suarez said she sent a floor plan to CSUSA’s technology department of where she would like to have DVR-enabled security cameras to get a quote so it could potentially be considered for next year’s budget.

“In addition to that, the assistant principals have a meeting on Tuesday and that meeting would gear toward going over our safety plan and having discussions of what other schools are doing,” Suarez said.

She added the school’s outer doors are checked hourly, all visitors are required to provide their drivers licenses upon entry to the school and teachers make sure to keep their own doors locked throughout the day. Additionally, Carden said CSUSA has hired a security expert who is evaluating both schools.

The board was slated to consider adding Ernest Taylor, a previous member of the board and owner of an Atlanta-based executive staffing and recruiting firm, on to the board, but the decision was tabled until next meeting. Taylor also serves on Mercer University School of Medicine board of governors.

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