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State commission nixes proposed Hephzibah charter school

Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 7:36 PM
Last updated Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 1:37 AM
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A charter school proposed mainly to serve children in Hephzibah was denied by the State Charter Schools Commission on Wednesday because of issues with the attendance zone.

The primary attendance zone for the Hephzibah Charter Academy was drawn to include only children living within the city limits of Hephzibah, which would not have had a large enough pool of students to be financially viable, according to Commission Executive Director Bonnie Holliday.

Holliday said the commission feared the school would choose to remain under-enrolled, and lose critical state funding, rather than fill seats by opening admission to the rest of Richmond County.

“The bottom line was with their enrollment projections, they’d have to open their attendance zone,” Holliday said. “They really wanted to serve Hephzibah rather than the whole of Richmond County.”

Holliday said the commission recommended HCA officials open admission to the secondary attendance zone if the school could not reach an 85 percent capacity with Hephzibah students. Because HCA rejected this condition, the application was denied.

Hephzibah City Commission Chairman Robert Buchwitz, also on the school’s governing board, said HCA disagreed with the condition because it would have been unfair to Hephzibah residents, whose local taxes would support the school.

According to state law, schools can create attendance zones but cannot give priority based on residence. So if officials filled 75 percent of the school with Hephzibah children and had to fill the other 10 percent with the secondary zone of Richmond County, they would have to open a lottery process if there were more applications than available seats.

However, the initial students already accepted from Hephzibah would have to be pooled in the lottery as well, because a school cannot hold a lottery for one zone and not another, Holliday said.

Buchwitz said HCA officials knew they couldn’t fill the school with Hephzibah residents alone but wanted to be able to keep the majority within the city limits. The open lottery would have diminished their control.

“We don’t have any taxing authority in Richmond County, so to tax the city of Hephzibah for a school and theoretically their children might or might not get in and they could get denied because somebody from Richmond County’s child took their place, makes no common sense whatsoever,” he said.

HCA submitted its application to the state commission in June along with 15 other potential charter schools. The commission was created in January after a 2012 constitutional amendment allowed for a state body to approve charter applications over local school boards.

Of the 16 original applications, Holliday said four did not meet legal requirements, three withdrew and one was approved at the local level in Bibb County. Of the remaining eight petitions considered, only one in Clayton County was approved Wednesday.

Applicants are eligible to re-apply with revised applications next year.

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.

Buchwitz said HCA was intended to provide residents an alternative to Richmond County public schools. With Hephzibah trailing Richmond County in high school diploma rates, Buchwitz said the school was intended to be more academically rigorous and college orientated.

It was intended to open in 2015 to 845 students in kindergarten through eighth grades and would adopt the Robert J. Marzano What Works in Schools instruction model along with Common Core Georgia Performance Standards.

The state commission interviewed Richmond County Schools officials in September, who expressed concerns about the primary attendance zone being too exclusionary based on demographics, with 62 percent of Hephzibah being white.

Buchwitz could not comment on what the group’s next steps will be but said some kind of change is needed.

“We’re losing population in Richmond County, and it boils down to one thing, and it’s the education system,” Buchwitz said. “We felt we might could turn the tide with this where we could keep people here. That was our hope.”

Comments (9) Add comment
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deestafford 10/30/13 - 11:24 pm
Based on just what I read in the article, the folks are shooting

themselves in the foot by not complying with the options given to them. I can see them wanting only folks within their city limits attending, but if that is not an option based on population they should take what they can in order to get their school.

I don't think instituting the Common Core is a good idea. The Common Core is a piece of junk that was developed from the top down and has been sold like a pig in a poke. It takes away from states' flexibility and goes to a big government ''one size fits all".

Bodhisattva 10/31/13 - 06:50 am
Common Core was developed by

Common Core was developed by the states, not the federal government. All of the standards were developed and adopted at the state level by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Sonny Perdue co-chaired the committee to promote the new standards. Because the standards were released in 2009, and because of the Race to the Top Grants, the Tea Party and other right wingers, never ones to cling to the truth, got it into their heads that this had something to do with Obama so they started pitching a big hissy fit, like they do about anything Obama. State created, state run by 45 states, plus DC, (no Texas, Alaska, Virginia, Nebraska, or Minnesota-has English/Language Arts but not Math Standards).

curly123053 10/31/13 - 07:35 am
Common Core Stinks!!

I don't care who created Common Core, but it is a dumbing down of our education system. A teacher friend of mine in Charleston County had the opportunity to look over the Common Core curriculum that had arrived in Charleston a few weeks ago. He says that basically if a student thinks 2+2=6.....You have to let the student think that so you don't hurt the student's feelings. That is where our education system is headed in the future under Common Core.....Another friend of mine took her kids out of the government schools to homeschool them this year because they were teaching her young elementary school daughter wrong! Her young daughter was writing letters like d and b backwards with a few others too. Her daughters teacher said that was okay if she wanted to write her letters backwards, as long as she understood what she was writing.....Excuse me?? And this was in Aiken County in the Wagener area. This is part of the Common Core folks!! The dumbing down of our youngest students!

GnipGnop 10/31/13 - 07:37 am
the Tea Party and other right wingers, never ones to cling to th

the Tea Party and other right wingers, never ones to cling to the truth,thanks for the laugh....have you seen the news lately? Seems like your democrats have lied about Obamacare since the beginning....I don't think repubs or Tea party members corner the market on telling lies or calling people names.

seenitB4 10/31/13 - 08:01 am
Lordy lordy

I am so glad I don't have children in school anymore.

Try again Hephzibah...I hope you get it.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 10/31/13 - 08:03 am

I just went to the RCBOE web site and noticed that National Hills Elementary School has an enrollment of 224 students. Surely there are more elementary-school-age students in Hephzibah than that. If National Hills is financially viable, then this charter school should be so as well.

nocnoc 10/31/13 - 09:02 am
It is a political game at this point

The RCBOE wants and needs to maintain control.

The Charter School concept would only demonstrate that better education can be provided by other than a Board of Education.

They can't have schools that would attach students that want to learn and would have a better controlled environment in what to do so.

bright idea
bright idea 10/31/13 - 09:59 am
The last thing

The last thing Richmond County needs is more schools, regardless of who owns them or runs them.

nocnoc 10/31/13 - 01:15 pm
Bright Idea - I like your


Many may not get it, but I understand it and have always liked a left hand come back it.

deestafford 10/31/13 - 09:53 pm
The Common Core was not developed by the states. There was

a "show" system put into place whereby the states were set up in committees and commissions to"develop" a common core. These politicians don't have the expertise to develop it so they are briefed on what should be in it and after much discussion and briefings they "approve" this piece of New Age garbage.

To get a good appreciation of the other side of Common Core read Michelle Malkin and go to American Thinker and search "Common Core" and read in particular the article about the questions and concerns of the governor of NC. Ever wonder why NC has not adopted CC? It's because the powers that be have critically studied it in depth.

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