The Richmond County Board of Education converted Murphey into a charter school in 2005, along with Jenkins-White Elementary, in hopes the model would turn around the struggling schools.
Since the conversion, Murphey has made adequate yearly progress benchmarks only twice and is being monitored by the Georgia Department of Education’s turnaround division.
Murphey Principal Veronica Bolton said the school would be unable to balance the intensive time commitment of rewriting the charter for the renewal process while also focusing on the reform plan outlined for the school by the state.
The Richmond County school board’s Instruction Committee approved allowing the school to discontinue the charter, which would have been up for renewal in November. The entire board will vote on the issue at its next regular meeting, set for 6 p.m. Oct. 18.
If the school had chosen to renew its charter, it would have had to create a new plan to comply with new state guidelines.
Bolton said that would be like “starting from scratch” because most of Murphey’s charter is not different than the curriculum of a traditional public school.
“Most of the goals in the original charter were not measurable,” Bolton said. “Right now we would have to have more measurable goals. We don’t have a way to see whether or not we meet certain goals. We are pretty much ‘charter’ in name only.”
Virginia Bradshaw, the district’s executive director for middle schools, said the move will allow Murphey to focus on reform rather than being bogged down with the administrative needs of designing a charter school.
Currently in its reform, Murphey is focusing on improving its weakest area, which is math, and getting off the state’s Needs Improvement list.
On the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests, sixth-graders scored a 51 percent pass rate in 2009, improved to 69 percent in 2010 and plummeted to 42 percent in 2011.
“I don’t want board members or community to see this as any kind of step backward,” Bradshaw said of not renewing the charter. “I think as giving up, in no way are we doing that. The work that Murphey is doing is progressing, and we just feel like we have to be able, and the staff have to be able, to focus on one set of reform plans, answer to one group of people and guidelines.”
Murphey’s decision to not renew the charter means Jenkins-White is the only charter school in Richmond County.
Jenkins-White has designed a rigorous charter plan to increase the social and academic achievements of the students. The Richmond County school board approved that new charter this past summer.
The pupils receive weekly intervention sessions in problem subjects and have cultural guidance to improve social skills. The school’s staff is working to implement a year-round academic calendar.
Principal Janie Norris said the school has set a goal to have 76 percent of third- through fifth-grade pupils meet or exceed grade-level CRCT math standards and 86.7 percent meet or exceed reading standards this year.