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Group seeks to establish arts charter school in Columbia County

Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 6:26 PM
Last updated Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 1:39 AM
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A local group intends to petition the Columbia County Board of Education to establish the county’s first charter school.

Todd Shafer, a fifth-grade teacher at Martinez Elementary School, said the group hopes to create a K-12 school that infuses art, music, dance, drama and foreign language into its curriculum. It will be known as Columbia County School for the Arts, according to the group’s letter of intent, which was sent to school Superintendent Sandra Carraway on Friday.

Should the group’s petition be approved by the school board, the charter school hopes to open by fall 2015, beginning with grades K-5 and adding a grade each year.

“It is our hope that we will not face opposition, but I know that the reality is there will be pushback,” Shafer said. “We want to work in partnership with the school district to continue and build on the very well-deserved reputation the district has.”

School board members were unaware of the group’s intentions and had not seen the letter of intent Friday.

Board Trustee Roxanne Whitaker said she “has never been a big proponent” of the charter school concept, but pledged to keep an open mind when the group presents its official petition.

“I have to admit that this is kind of a shock,” said Whitaker. “I would have thought Columbia County was one of the last places someone would want a charter school.”

She also questioned the need for a school with an arts infused curriculum since many schools already have strong arts programs.

“Harlem High School’s drama program is one of the best in the country,” she said.

Shafer said the charter school will serve students countywide and there will be no audition or selection process, such as the one at Davidson Fine Arts School in Augusta. When it reaches full enrollment, they expect to serve more than 1,100 students.

According to the group’s letter of intent, the mission of the proposed Columbia County School for the Arts is to develop students to become confident, creative and productive citizens within their community. Innovations will include:

- Daily instruction in the arts (visual, music, dance and drama)

- Daily instruction in foreign languages (K-12)

- Collaboration between the academic and arts faculty

- Cooperative teaching opportunities between academic, arts and foreign language faculty”

Shafer said the founding board includes Michael Berg, a colleague at Martinez Elementary; Ron and Kathleen Jones, of the Columbia County Ballet; Linda Scales, a founding member of the Jessye Norman School of the Arts; Carolyn Dolen, the executive director of the Augusta Choral Society; and Cindy Wilkinson, the worship leader at Mosaic United Methodist Church.

Shafer said Ed Innovation Partners, an Athens, Ga.-based firm is assisting in “the process of preparing the petition.”

He said the group does not have a private funding source or a location for the school. They are still in the initial stages and will be seeking a lot of public input throughout the process, he said.

“The next step is we’ll be holding community meetings to get feedback and answer any questions that the public will have,” Shafer said. “We want everyone’s help to plan a petition to create a school that will be beneficial to the entire community.”

Board Trustee Mike Sleeper said the biggest hurdle for this group is funding.

“That is the biggest problem for the Columbia County school system as well as the biggest problem in education in general,” he said.

Sleeper said he isn’t opposed to the charter school concept, but not all charter schools are alike.

“Charter schools have their place and there are some instances that work well. Is this one of them? I don’t know,” he said. “I would be very interested in what they intend to do, where they are going to go and how we’ll pay for it.”

Mission and Vision Statements

Mission Statement

The Columbia County School for the Arts (CCSFTA) mission is to develop students to become confident, creative, and productive citizens within their community.

Vision Statement

The Columbia County School for the Arts (CCSFTA) will be a school of academic excellence for students in grades K-12 that will develop the whole student through a curriculum that infuses music, drama, visual arts, dance, and foreign language into the core academic areas of math, language, science, and social studies. We envision developing students who are academically, artistically, and socially competent so that they will exit our school as independent, cooperative, responsible, and creative young adults with a continuing interest and ability in learning and the arts. We believe that these skills and qualities will prepare our students to pursue additional educational goals and allow them to contribute to the life and well being of society as a whole.

Our vision includes the belief that:

  • An academic curriculum infused with the fine arts will increase academic achievement. 
  • Collaboration amongst academic and fine arts faculty members will yield strong and creative academic lessons that will reach each individual’s learning style. 
  • Students who are nurtured by a high quality team of teachers will recognize their intrinsic talents and through the guidance of a dedicated faculty will develop and utilize these talents to their fullest potential and find a path in life that will lead to self actualization and happiness. 
  • Students need an understanding of, and access to, the latest and developing technologies in order to ensure their participation and assimilation into a technologically developing global society.
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Riverman1
86921
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Riverman1 01/31/14 - 08:36 pm
9
2
Go For It

I suggest creative and non fiction writing be included in the arts curriculum. The school concept is a good one. I imagine the school will receive lots of financial help from the private sector.

Just My Opinion
5874
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Just My Opinion 01/31/14 - 09:39 pm
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River, I don't think the

River, I don't think the private sector will give enough to support a school for 1100 kids. I don't care how good or bad this project is, lack of sufficient funding will stop this thing dead in it's tracks! How can they expect money to pay for this when teachers HAVE to be furloughed?..when teachers HAVE to pay for their own copy paper?..when every year, public schools worry if they'll be enough funding to field athletic teams or even a marching band and allow them to travel?
I truly don't understand it, but I'm willing to listen.

fatboyhog
2021
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fatboyhog 01/31/14 - 10:31 pm
4
4
Great idea

And if it's so great, why don't Shafer and Co. form their own private school? Why should I, as a taxpayer, fund this? If other county schools have acceptable arts programs, why is a charter school even needed? It's time we let the teachers get back to teaching. Kids are graduating from high school and they have to take remedial classes in college. Something is wrong with this picture. Let's get back to the "readin', writin' and 'rithmatic." When we are furloughing teachers and cutting teaching positions, this seems a very frivolous spending of taxpayer money.

bluejay23
12
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bluejay23 02/01/14 - 07:00 am
5
2
A Great time to bring a school like this to Columbia County

First, there is not one school inside Columbia County that offers an infused arts program including dance, music, drama, and visual arts. My child gets 30 minutes of art and music every 7 days and this hardly constitutes an infused fine arts school. There is no dance and there is no drama in my child's school. As far as I know there isn't one school that offers instruction in different foreign languages that will ultimately lead in bilingualism for students. Columbia County is getting ready to handle an influx of close to 2,000 new students within the next couple of years due to the addition of the Cyber Command. The Columbia County School Board is looking at building new schools to accommodate this influx of students. This is the perfect time to bring a school like this to our area. I have children in my family who attend fine arts schools outside the state of Georgia and I can tell you these schools are all about reading, writing, and mathematics. Academics is always their first priority. The children from these schools consistently outperform students in traditional public schools in the areas of reading and math and their test scores are off the charts. People need to look at the research about how music, dance, drama, and visual arts help students achieve at higher academic levels.

seenitB4
90837
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seenitB4 02/01/14 - 08:06 am
5
3
Get it!

You need more choices in Columbia county...great idea.

Dixieman
15998
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Dixieman 02/01/14 - 01:08 pm
5
5
Do it!

The educrats are already crawling out of their holes and moaning and whining and complaining about this...a good sign the promoters are on the right track! Let freedom and parental choice rule!!

Junket103
452
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Junket103 02/01/14 - 08:54 am
4
0
Interesting Proposal

I agree with Riverman on this one. Although I wonder if a different approach or perhaps smaller scale might work to start, to show the concept can work.

Instead of a separate school and structure, this focus on arts should be inclusive in each school in the county. Perhaps one or two classrooms per school. Make it more of a Cyber School concept where the student stays close to home/neighborhood school for much of the academics, but come together for specific functions that need to be conducted in person. CC schools shine because they have very strong parental, government and community support. Create ways to strengthen the arts into all schools and at the same time capture the energy into a central location that can take the experience to another level. Good luck to the organizers.

grouse
1635
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grouse 02/01/14 - 11:11 am
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I know most of the names on
Unpublished

I know most of the names on the board. This is a cover for a religious school.

countyman
20588
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countyman 02/01/14 - 11:16 am
1
4
Irony

The CCBOE won't let it happen, because the BOE and the media have to protect the image..

Charter schools provide school choice, and we've been told all of the schools in the county are good..

The irony is the location won't be in either Harlem or Grovetown.. They already tried to build Grovetown high school closer to Evans, and not in the city limits..

Riverman1
86921
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Riverman1 02/01/14 - 11:37 am
4
1
Irony?

New word for you? What's ironic about where a school is built?

countyman
20588
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countyman 02/01/14 - 11:45 am
1
3
Irony

Why didn't they build the new high school in the Grovetown city limits?

The options of school choice should be offered to the most underprivileged areas of the county first..

Riverman1
86921
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Riverman1 02/01/14 - 12:02 pm
3
1
Students who don't live in

Students who don't live in Grovetown go to the HS. It was built near as they could get it to the population center and growth in that portion of the county. Do you think there is some esoteric, ulterior motive? Harlem HS is out on the highway outside of town, too.

Sweet son
10736
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Sweet son 02/01/14 - 12:08 pm
3
1
Hey Riverman,

countyman knows that a fine arts school in CC might upstage his beloved Davidson Fine Arts.

I think there is room for both counties to have exemplary schools.

corgimom
34071
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corgimom 02/01/14 - 12:09 pm
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I agree, and no, it shouldn't

I agree, and no, it shouldn't be just for "disadvantaged" kids.

dahreese
4743
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dahreese 02/01/14 - 12:11 pm
3
3
"Charter schools provide
Unpublished

"Charter schools provide school choice, and we've been told all of the schools in the county are good."

I don't know about your county, but overall charter schools throughout the nation have not proven to be any better than public schools.

micbare
18
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micbare 02/01/14 - 12:15 pm
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Shafer and Berg

I have had the honor. Of having my children taught by Mr. Shafer and Mr. Berg. They are both awesome teachers. I considered them both wonderful role models and mentors for my boys. If these two men are involved with this charter school idea. I can guarantee you. I will be a concept that will highly benefit any of the children involved. Mickey Barefield

triscuit
3153
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triscuit 02/01/14 - 12:16 pm
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1
Well, maybe it would stop

Well, maybe it would stop some of the Col. Cty. Kids from sneaking in to Davidson....which they do.

dahreese
4743
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dahreese 02/01/14 - 12:16 pm
3
2
"The options of school choice
Unpublished

"The options of school choice should be offered to the most underprivileged areas of the county first."

Not everywhere and not all charter schools; but mostly charter schools have been established in order to get away from underprivileged areas and children.

Most charter schools are established by corporations for the purpose of making a profit first.

The kids come second.

Otherwise, why get into the corporate charter school business?

And to support my point, can anyone produce a corporate charter school that is losing money and yet staying in business?

CobaltGeorge
164620
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CobaltGeorge 02/01/14 - 12:33 pm
3
3
Make All The Comments You Want,

but

If you love your children and don't want them to become the 3rd generation of teachers teaching the 4th generation, the only choice you have are Private schools. Any child in a Private school at any level,can beat every Liberal government controlled School student, hands down. Also, they are taught Respect, Honor and true history of America before 1950's.

sargentwhite
4
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sargentwhite 02/01/14 - 12:52 pm
2
2
Columbia County Schools Not So Hot

If any school district needed a school to brag about it's Columbia Co. The system compares poorly against other suburban districts with similar demographics nationally. It may make Columbia Co. residents feel good that they regularly outpace neighboring Richmond Co. (with its disadvantaged & minority populations) but their best school was ranked about 1,200 in the country whereas Davidson FA Magnet School in Richmond Co was in the top 100. This ranking was based on academics--NOT dancing, music, etc. Kudos to Todd Shafer & everyone working on bringing REAL education to Columbia Co. There's more to life than 8000 square foot homes, SUV's with movie screens, & soccer moms. Hopefully some kids who live in this cultural wasteland will have the opportunity to experience the best in life.

Riverman1
86921
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Riverman1 02/01/14 - 12:50 pm
2
0
Understand when you have

Understand when you have nonmagnet schools such as Columbia County has, they accept even the special needs students. What's amazing is they score so highly even with those students. I have no problems with the quality of the education in Columbia County schools, but this arts charter school would be an asset and offer a different kind of education.

Riverman1
86921
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Riverman1 02/01/14 - 12:48 pm
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Let's clarify one point.

Let's clarify one point. Charter schools still receive state and local funding.

Dixieman
15998
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Dixieman 02/01/14 - 01:19 pm
2
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They won't even eat their own cooking

My personal preference is 1) Private school, 2) Charter school, 3) Government school (a/k/a public school).
By the way, what occupational group sends the highest percentage of its children to private school in the US? Lawyers? Doctors? Business executives? Nope. Public school teachers. What does that tell you?
(Skip down a post or two for the supporting facts)

countyman
20588
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countyman 02/01/14 - 01:17 pm
2
3
School choice

They decided to build Grovetown high school outside of the city, because of the demographics.. The poor and lower income people live in the city limits, and the homes on Columbia rd, William Few Parkway, Lewiston rd, and Chamblin rd are located outside the city..

Dahreese.. I used to live in Columbia County, and now I live in the CBD downtown.. I believe the only charter school in RC is Murphey(RCBOE was to consolidate with Josey), and the school is located in the poorer area of the county.

Sargentwhite.. They love to compare the overall crime rates and median incomes versus Richmond County to make themselves feel better about living in CC too..

Dixieman
15998
Points
Dixieman 02/01/14 - 01:20 pm
2
1
Here are the facts to support my earlier post:

"About 11 percent of all parents -- nationwide, rural and urban -- send their children to private schools. The numbers are much higher in urban areas. One study found that in Philadelphia a staggering 44 percent of public school teachers send their own kids to private schools. In Cincinnati and Chicago, 41 and 39 percent of public school teachers, respectively, pay for a private school education for their children. In Rochester, New York, it's 38 percent. In Baltimore it's 35 percent, San Francisco is 34 percent and New York-Northeastern New Jersey is 33 percent. In Los Angeles nearly 25 percent of public school teachers send their kids to private school versus 16 percent of Angelenos who do so.

"The study, conducted in 2004 by the Fordham Institute, said: These findings ... are apt to be embarrassing for teacher unions, considering those organizations' political animus toward assisting families to select among schools. But these results do not surprise most practicing teachers to whom we speak. ... The data have shown the same basic pattern since we first happened upon them two decades ago: Urban public school teachers are more apt to send their own children to private schools than is the general public. One might say this shows how conservative teachers are. They continue doing what they've always done. Or it might indicate that they have long been discerning connoisseurs of education. ...

"The middle class will tolerate a lot -- disorder, decay, and dismay, an unwholesome environment, petty crime, potholes, chicanery and rudeness. One thing, however, that middle class parents will not tolerate is bad schools for their children. To escape them, they will pay out-of-pocket or vote with their feet. That is what discerning teachers do."

"What about members of Congress? Where do they send their own children? A 2007 Heritage Foundation study found that 37 percent of representatives and 45 percent of senators with school-age children sent their own kids to private school. Of the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus with school-age children, 38 percent sent them to private school. Of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus with school-age children, 52 percent sent them to private school.

"The ex-mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, was asked why he did not have his own kids in public school despite his strong advocacy of public education. Villaraigosa, whose wife was a public school teacher, said, "I'm doing like every parent does. I'm going to put my kids in the best school I can. My kids were in a neighborhood public school until just this year. We've decided to put them in a Catholic school. We've done that because we want our kids to have the best education they can. If I can get that education in a public school, I'll do it, but I won't (SET ITAL)sacrifice(END ITAL) (emphasis added) my children any more than I could ask you to do the same."

"When he got elected president, Barack Obama and his wife made a big display of looking into D.C. public schools for his two daughters to attend. But the Obamas chose Sidwell Friends, the elite private school whose alums include Chelsea Clinton. Obama's own mother sent the then-10-year-old to live with her parents -- so he could attend Punahou Academy, the most exclusive prep school on the island. In fact, from Punahou to Occidental (a private college in Los Angeles) to Columbia (where he completed college) to Harvard Law, Obama is a product of private education."

From October 2013 Larry Elder column. 'Nuff said.

willie7
984
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willie7 02/01/14 - 01:39 pm
0
0
An excellent blog
Unpublished

An excellent blog sargentwhite!!!! Many of those people living in those big homes are bursting their butt working to stay in them.
And failing to push their children academically.

dahreese
4743
Points
dahreese 02/01/14 - 02:06 pm
1
1
If charter schools had the
Unpublished

If charter schools had the same populations and human situations as public schools, would the education of children be any better?

Before answering that question, please keep in mind that those teachers who teach in charter schools go through the same universities and take the same classes as do those teachers who teach in public schools.

dahreese
4743
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dahreese 02/01/14 - 03:07 pm
1
1
Dixieman, at the moment I am
Unpublished

Dixieman, at the moment I am trying to research some of the claims of Larry Elder (whom I would take with a big grain of salt).

In particular, I'm curious as to where he got his statistics; and at the moment it seems he got a major part from the internet. That's not to say all of his statistics are wrong, but how many, maybe, are 'sorta' slanted and not exactly correct.

“What’s even more bothersome is that some members of Congress — who are paid $165,200 per year — have no problem sending their own kids to private schools, but want to reduce the school-choice options for those without financial means to afford it on their own.”

In other words, the needs of our kids come first, and everybody else kids can go to ....

We aren't interested in improving public education.

2007:

House; Senate;

dems 63% public 37% private dems 57% public 43% private

reps 63% public 37% private reps 53% public 47% private
-----------------------------------------------
Let's keep in mind, too, that given the millions who live in this country, members of Congress are an insignificant number as to where they send their kids to school

The problem is THEIR hypocrisy.
-------------------------------------------
, “What’s even more bothersome is that some members of Congress — who are paid $165,200 per year — have no problem sending their own kids to private schools, but want to reduce the school-choice options for those without financial means to afford it on their own.”

Also, there are more millionaires in Congress than ever before.

In short, it's the wealthy that are leading the way to destroy public education.

The Koch brothers have a big hand in establishing charter schools and putting down public schools.

Riverman1
86921
Points
Riverman1 02/01/14 - 02:52 pm
3
2
Grovetown High School

Countyman, your belief that the CCBOE decided to build Grovetown HS outside the town limits because of the income level of the town is funny. You don't think it had anything to do with the population growth and center for the school district? Why did they name it Grovetown HS? I mean how far do you take your fantasies?

Riverman1
86921
Points
Riverman1 02/01/14 - 03:17 pm
3
2
Interesting subject. The

Interesting subject. The river may not flow between Richmond and Columbia Counties, but the divide is deep.

I do believe public schools CAN work although that’s not always the case. The fact is many people can’t afford to send their kids to private schools so we are stuck with the public ones.

In Columbia County public schools work very well as evidenced by their countywide scores in comparison to the state. Richmond County has a much more difficult situation because 75% of their kids are black, mostly poor, coming out of an era of criminal segregation, job-housing discrimination and parents-grandparents who attended substandard schools. Plus, these days the welfare system has destroyed the black family with the majority of kids being born out of wedlock.

I don’t knock RC schools except to point out the realities because I understand the situation. That doesn’t mean I would send my kids to their schools unless it was Davidson. Read Pat Conroy’s, The Water is Wide, to understand what teachers in Richmond County are up against.

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