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Georgia commission to decide on possible Hephzibah charter school in October

Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 7:43 PM
Last updated Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 12:37 AM
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Officials in Hephzibah are counting on a state commission to approve their application for a charter school targeted toward children in the Hephzibah and Blythe area and aimed at giving families an alternative to Richmond County public schools.

Hephzibah Charter Aca­demy is one of 16 groups that submitted applications to the State Charter Schools Com­mission this summer. A 2012 constitutional amendment authorizes a state committee to approve charter schools even if local school boards object.

Hephzibah City Commis­sion Chairman Robert Buch­witz interviewed with the state commission last week to push for approval of the school, which he hopes to open for 845 students in kindergarten through sixth grade in the fall of 2015.

“This is just so people can have a choice,” Buchwitz said. “Currently you have no choice but to accept what’s there or move into Columbia County or North Augusta. If we’re going to retain children that are growing up and starting to raise families in this community and attract the big employers to the area, they need school choice.”

The commission will announce a decision at its meeting Oct. 30, according to executive director Bonnie Holliday.

The commission also interviewed representatives from the Richmond County Board of Education last week to hear concerns about the Hephzibah application. Though the school does not need approval from the local board under the new law, the board has until Oct. 14 to approve or deny the application.

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are given more flexibility and are not under the control of local districts. In Georgia, they are overseen by governing boards that control their finances and policies.

According to its application, the mission of Heph­zi­bah Charter Academy is to provide “a safe learning environment where every student is challenged to reach his or her full potential.” It also will focus on academic excellence with a positive morale.

The primary attendance zone would be within the city limits of Hephzibah, according the application. If seats remain available, the zone would expand east of Heph­zibah until Georgia High­way 56 between Brown Road and the Burke County line; it would expand west into Blythe following U.S. Highway 1 between Georgia Highway 88 to the Jefferson County line.

Richmond County Super­in­tendent Frank Roberson said those boundaries appear too “exclusionary,” which is one concern he said he plans to express in his response to the Schools Commission. According to the U.S. Census, Hephzibah is 62 percent white, and Blythe residents are 81 percent white.

“It does concern us that it appears that there is exclusion or an exclusionary program just by how the geography is set up,” Roberson said.

He also said the proposed charter school does not have anything that is not offered by the Richmond County schools in Hephzibah. Char­ter schools are typically established to fill a void or offer an academic program not currently available.

The Richmond County elementary, middle and high schools are some of the better performing schools in the district, with all three scoring among the highest in their grade levels on the state’s Col­lege and Career Ready Performance Index.

Former Augusta Mayor Bob Young, a local governing council member of the proposed charter school, said he sees a need for a school that offers a more college-oriented focus.

With Hephzibah trailing Rich­mond County in high school diploma attainment rates, Young said an academically rigourous charter school could provide a better choice for families.

“The people in Hephzibah have their issues with the way their children are being educated,” Young said. “I’m a firm believer that children and parents ought to have an option … they ought to be able to obtain a quality education for that child.”

Buchwitz, also on the school’s governing board, presented the Hephzibah city commission last week with architectural sketches for a $7.8 million, 37-classroom facility that would be funded primarily by tax-free municipal bonds, lease purchase programs and Depart­ment of Agriculture assistance funding.

The city has agreed to provide land at the corner of Fulcher and Storey Mill roads for the school, Buchwitz said. Money to operate the school would come from state and federal funding. It is proposed to open as a K-6 school but will gradually add grades until it offers high school.

According to the application, the school would not provide transportation for students. Like all public schools, it would be required to follow the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards but would use an educational model based on Robert J. Marzano’s What Works in Schools research-based instruction.

While it’s still early in the process, Buchwitz said he’s confident he’s offering something that can revitalize the community.

“I’ve got a good feeling we’ve got a great plan,” he said. “There are no charter schools in the Richmond County area, so I feel confident (the committee) will see a need.”

Heph­zi­bah Charter Academy application

Comments (18) Add comment
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countyman
19545
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countyman 09/15/13 - 10:59 pm
3
0
South Richmond

I definitely see the rural parts of South Augusta and the city limits of Hephzibah becoming more suburban. The area of Blythe in Richmond/Burke should experience some exurban growth.

Hopefully the rural areas in South Augusta like Bennock Mill, Mcbean, etc can create their own personal identity.

Richmond desperately needs to build a magnet school(IB program) in West Augusta, and the regular elementary/middle on Gordon Hwy near either Willhaven or Haynes Station in Southwest Augusta.

scoobynews
3824
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scoobynews 09/16/13 - 05:04 am
9
0
Concerned about the racial make up!!!

I worked at Glenn Hills many years ago and had ONE white girl in the whole class. Where is the concern there??? There are way more schools in Richmond county were the white children are the minority yet no one cares until it appears the charter school will be mostly white!! I hope the school is approved and moves forward.

ColCo
656
Points
ColCo 09/16/13 - 05:57 am
6
0
Education is the key to development

Someone is finally thinking. Instead of complaining that an area is being ignored, a group of leaders in Richmond County is actually doing something to set themselves apart. By offering parents a public alternative to the Richmond County school system, Hephzibah will see residential growth, which will be followed by private sector investment. A very smart, long term strategy. Before all you naysayers start in, Paine College has an submitted application to establish a charter school too.

Bodhisattva
5877
Points
Bodhisattva 09/16/13 - 05:58 am
1
6
Robert Marzano?

It isn't What Works in Schools research-based instruction, it's what makes Robert J. Maranzo money by being a huckster for his books and his method de jour scheme. Any legitimate reviews of his research destroys it. His methods are flawed, mainly because his "research based instruction" references is own studies (when he's not taking others' out of context). "Yes, this works because in the paper I wrote last month I said it works." Think tobacco companies saying smoking is safe because their research showed it was safe. That's Marzano. He's a fraud. He's into selling books and his "system". He couldn't care less that if it works in schools and helps students and teachers, he's getting rich from it. Rick Scott is deliberately trying to privatize Florida's public school system and is using Marzano's scheme to drive the nails in its coffin. It's working very well tearing apart their public schools, whose bright idea was it to choose it for here? In conclusion, if anyone thinks the zoning area was coincidental, I have some oceanfront land in Hephzibah to sell them. This is a perfect example of why the GOP pushed the charter school amendment. They won't have to pay to send their kids to the segregation academies anymore. They can just get a charter school set up, zone it just right, and the taxpayers get to foot the bill for a mostly segregated school. Jim Crow has crawled out of his grave and is alive and well in the statehouses and in the townships of the old Confederacy. May his renewed life be short.

mrsbras
103
Points
mrsbras 09/16/13 - 07:39 am
2
0
WOW

You asked for it so now you got it.I agree with one thing Bob Young said parents are not please with RCBOE.We know who wont be attending this school.Lets see which rcboe board member will be taking there children/grandchildren there. Im sure this is gonna be very interesting.

Little Lamb
44967
Points
Little Lamb 09/16/13 - 08:02 am
5
0
Exclusionary?

Hats off to the people making this attempt.

Boo on Frank Roberson. He's just trying to hold on to power and money. Typical.

Bulldog
1319
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Bulldog 09/16/13 - 08:06 am
5
0
Its about time!

Its about time! Now children and parents who want a real education may actually be able to get one.

seenitB4
84423
Points
seenitB4 09/16/13 - 08:28 am
5
2
Either do this or say goodbye to many!

If you put the brakes on this you will see families leaving Richmond county...I would bet on that...just like scooby said...if some are sooo concerned about exclusion ---why not worry about the few lone whites?

nocnoc
40509
Points
nocnoc 09/16/13 - 08:38 am
5
0
Hephzibah draws and line

I support any effort to take control over the education curriculum, classroom and student discipline, which provides an education that actually prepares a student to speak, act and conduct ones self in a civilized society in a real job market.

internationallyunknown
4020
Points
internationallyunknown 09/16/13 - 12:00 pm
2
2
Glenn Hills is NOT a Charter

Glenn Hills is NOT a Charter School. The racial make-up of that school is soley based on the demographics of the community.

#FauxNews

Little Lamb
44967
Points
Little Lamb 09/16/13 - 12:45 pm
2
0
Pulled Post

It appears that FauxNews’ post was pulled. The point I think that FauxNews was trying to make is that if it is okay for the demographics of Glenn Hills to reflect the demographics of the community it serves, then it should be okay for the demographics of the proposed Hephzibah Charter School to reflect the demographics of the zone they draw.

Sean Moores
133
Points
Sean Moores 09/16/13 - 01:41 pm
3
0
No comments removed

No comments removed from this story.

scoobynews
3824
Points
scoobynews 09/16/13 - 02:12 pm
3
0
Internationally known as if we don't know that.

I KNOW it is not a charter school and no one said BLACK children couldn't come to the charter school.

"Richmond County Super­in­tendent Frank Roberson said those boundaries appear too “exclusionary,” which is one concern he said he plans to express in his response to the Schools Commission. According to the U.S. Census, Hephzibah is 62 percent white, and Blythe residents are 81 percent white."

Exclusionary to who??? Did it say BLACK students could not attend just because the make up is a higher percentage white? Why is he not concerned about the lack of whites in the public schools? There was a time when black students had to be bused to white schools. Why not now? Instead you leave ONE white child in a whole class of black children because it is the demographics?? Really?? If the opposite was happening in Hephzibah you can bet your bottom dollar it would not be going on far long.

internationallyunknown
4020
Points
internationallyunknown 09/16/13 - 02:56 pm
2
1
ScoobyDoo:I have known MANY

ScoobyDoo:
I know of MANY PUBLIC schools where there are only 1-10 white kids in the ENTIRE school...and vice versa. Scooby, what will this charter school offer that is not already available in RC? Also, the 3 Hephzibah schools have consistently out performed most schools in this area....so why break away from RCSS??? (retorical)

My point: Race is and will always be a factor in decisions made in the USA.

The unspoken, underlying tone of this school is: We want "our" children to attend a school which is best summed up by what LITTLE LAMB wrote: "...Hephzibah Charter School to reflect the demographics of the zone they draw." KEY WORDS "they draw".

cough, cough, segregation.

Is it needed? Yes, RCBOE needs a wake up call. Not Roberson, just majority of the RCSS.

internationallyunknown
4020
Points
internationallyunknown 09/16/13 - 02:59 pm
0
2
Why not allow ALL children in

Why not allow ALL children in RC to apply to this school? Why just majority white people?

CobaltGeorge
153656
Points
CobaltGeorge 09/16/13 - 03:09 pm
0
1
The

answer to "Why just majority white people? is answerable only by using Non-PC and not acceptable in today's society.

scoobynews
3824
Points
scoobynews 09/16/13 - 05:51 pm
1
0
Why is there an assumption

Why is there an assumption only little white children will be attending this school if it is approved?? Who are the other 38% in Hephzibah?? Aliens??

internationallyunknown
4020
Points
internationallyunknown 09/16/13 - 07:18 pm
0
0
^get real. Ok, then. Lets

^get real. Ok, then. Lets wait for the data.

I actually said majority, tho.

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