The board also received information during the monthly board meeting about the plans to add a high school, which was approved by the Georgia Department of Education in the recent extension of CCA’s five-year charter.
Upon approval by Georgia Charter Educational Foundation’s board of directors, the school’s nonprofit governing board, Jerguson will take on the role at the board’s meeting next month, Chair Heather Blevins said.
The position was vacated this month by Vince Baker.
Present at the meeting were Blevins, Larry Blase, Danny Dukes and Principal Vanessa Suarez. Calling in via teleconference were GCEF Board Chair Lyn Carden, LGC members Byron Greene and Jonathan Pfohl as well as Hillary Daigle with Charter Schools USA.
As of January, the school has a total of 1,005 students with 99 percent in attendance, according to a school report from Suarez. She said five students withdrew from the school over the winter break.
Additionally, 973 students have recommitted to attending the school for 2013-14 school year with 11 students newly enrolled and 228 students on the waitlist.
“Based on our current recommits, the only grade we would be currently accepting is kindergarten unless people move then we’ll fill those seats with people on the waitlist,” Suarez said, adding there will be 120 seats in next year’s kindergarten class.
Suarez said she plans to send a letter home with eighth-grade students in the next few weeks about plans for the addition of ninth-grade in the next school year.
After the meeting, Suarez said she plans to hold a high school information session for the 48 incoming ninth-grade students and their parents March 18. She said the school will use its current facility to accommodate the students and does not plan to enroll more students for the additional grade level.
Blevins added the council is still working on the development of the high school. Long term plans indicate an additional high school facility, as the state-approved petition includes an addition of 61,000 square feet to CCA’s 84,000-square-foot facility.
The council also reviewed its January financials.
Daigle, a financial analyst with CSUSA, said although the budget indicates a $34,351 deficit in title grant revenue, she anticipates the school will receive more than its original budget of $57,000 for a total of about $77,500 in title funds.
“The forecast is also showing that the school will be favorable (to budget) at the end of the year and favorable to the budget a little bit short of $100,000, so the school’s doing well,” Daigle said.
The school also spent $109,215 in personal property taxes this month, which was an unbudgeted item.
Dukes said although Cherokee Charter Academy is a 501c3 nonprofit, the owner of the property, M&T Trust Co. of Delaware, is not. He said he’s spoken with representatives with the Georgia Department of Revenue regarding the tax.
“If we had a situation where we obtain the title to the property at some future date in the lease, we might be able to come before a tax tribunal and get that exempted but right now the owner is the trust and the trust is a taxable unit so they have to pay property taxes,” Dukes said. “And in the lease, it passes on those type of expenses to us so we’ll be working on that further.”
Carden clarified that in the school’s lease agreement with Florida-based Red Apple Development LLC, CCA pays all expenses related to the property. After the meeting, Dukes added the property owner is paid directly through Red Apple.
For the first time, the council also reviewed a statement of cash flows, with the cash balance at the end of the January period at $692,610.
In new business, Dukes said the school is looking to move banks from Wells Fargo to either Chase or SunTrust due to high surcharges from Wells Fargo. He said the analysis is under way and plans to have a report for the next meeting to recommend another bank.
Dukes also encouraged the council members to contact the local delegation about two bills introduced in the General Assembly this legislative session: House Bill 123, commonly known as the “parent trigger” bill, and House Bill 140, which would raise the annual cap for money donated to student scholarship organizations to $80 million from $50 million for tax-credit scholarships and adds reporting requirements to these groups.
“Both of those (bills) are easier on the taxpayer’s wallet when it comes to spending for education as well as advantageous for pro-charter, pro-school choice parents,” Dukes said.
Dukes volunteered to provide the council with contacts for the local delegation, including Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), who serves on the education committee.
“We need to get some people behind him in that effort,” Dukes said.
Blevins said the board was not taking an official position on the bills but noted it was something the board would be paying attention to and watching.
In open forum, parent Aimee Clary shared concerns about the school’s Spanish program, requesting more homework and updates about her children’s instruction so she can reinforce what they are learning at school when they come home.
“We’re not receiving any feedback,” Clary said. “I don’t see what they’re doing in class.”
She also requested the school look into teaching Spanish more often or adding another language to its curriculum.