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Columbia County school board rejects fine arts charter school

Friday, July 25, 2014 6:02 PM
Last updated Saturday, July 26, 2014 2:15 AM
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Organizers behind a proposed fine arts charter school in Columbia County said they are optimistic state officials will approve their plan to open a school in 2015 – a plan that was unanimously rejected by the Board of Education this week.

Todd Shafer, one of the founding board members for the proposed Columbia County School for the Arts, said the entire board will travel to Atlanta on Tuesday to present their application to the Charter Schools Commission of Georgia.

“We are very confident that we will be successful with the state charter commission,” Shafer said. “Once they make their decision in mid-September, we will enter into an agreement with the state charter commission and function as a state-authorized charter school.”

The group submitted applications in May to both Columbia County and the state. The Columbia County School for the Arts, which would be open to all Columbia County residents, would infuse fine arts and foreign language throughout the academic curriculum. Although proposed as a K-12 school, Shafer said the plan is to open in 2015 with kindergarten through eighth grade and add a grade each year afterward.

Although they can’t take any official actions until the charter is approved, Shafer said the group has been scouting possible locations for the proposed school.

“We are working closely with a real estate broker and we have identified several locations,” he said.

School board Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco said board members didn’t reject the charter school application lightly. She said they relied on recommendations made by a committee appointed to study the plan and compare it to current educational opportunities available to Columbia county students.

“I wasn’t just going to willy-nilly say we don’t want a charter school,” she said. “Our system is already doing above and beyond what they are asking to do.”

The committee, composed of school Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway, nine members of the administrative staff and two school attorneys, provided board members with a 37-page draft report that found fault with the charter plan in six general areas, including lack of organizational innovation, failure to meet the needs of the community, insufficient increase in student achievement and a lack of fiscal soundness.

Buccafusco said it wouldn’t be in the board’s best interest to support a school that would have instructional standards below what is already being provided by the school system.

She also expressed doubt about how the new school could put together enough funding or attract enough students to be fiscally viable.

“For me that was an easy vote,” she said “I’m really proud of what our system does now.”

Shafer said their plan calls for a combination of state funding and other sources, such as federal and state grants, to meet the school’s needs.

“We have no concerns about receiving the funding that we will require to operate the school,” he said.

Shafer said he felt like there was little interest on the county board’s part to communicate with the charter school board, but he wasn’t surprised by their decision.

“Obviously we are disappointed that the school board chose not to partner with us in our endeavor,” he said. “I’m also disappointed that they did not contact us to address their concerns.”

Shafer wasn’t at the Tuesday night meeting. However, he said he and the other charter school board members were under the impression that no formal action was planned.

The only charter school board member to attend was Dr. Linda Scales, who said she didn’t request to speak because she thought school board members were only going to receive a report.

“We had made an inquiry,” she said. “We were unaware that they were going to take a vote.”

Scales, who is a founding member of the Jessye Norman School of the Arts in Augusta, said the county school board didn’t hear both sides of the issues before making a decision.

“We as a group did not have the opportunity to address the statements that the report made,” Scales said.

She said one of the main conclusions in the report was that the school was not offering anything that the school system doesn’t already have.

“Columbia County does not offer an arts-infused program,” she said, explaining that the school’s curriculum was modeled after Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School in Augusta. “Davidson is the second-best school in the state and it is art-infused.”

Carraway said the committee’s review of the application was thorough and the charter school group did an excellent job preparing its application.

“In reality the (charter school) petition tells their story. It really didn’t leave us with any questions,” Carraway said. “They did an excellent job in presenting the petition.”

The committee’s examination of the petition, however, exposed alleged weaknesses in the plan, that led to the school board’s rejection.

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whyme
2070
Points
whyme 07/25/14 - 10:59 pm
4
2
sorry to hear...

...that this was rejected. We've known a number of students who have really benefited from Davidson's curriculum, and the fact that anyone would be eligible to attend would be great. People wouldn't have to move out of the county to attend Davidson anymore either! At the same time, those not interested in this method of instruction could remain where they are and benefit from the fine arts programs already in place in their home schools. At a time when such programs are being cut-and realistically our schools have small ones as it already-this seems as if it would be a great opportunity.

AutumnLeaves
9528
Points
AutumnLeaves 07/25/14 - 11:22 pm
6
0
John S. Davidson Fine Arts

John S. Davidson Fine Arts MAGNET School is not a charter school and is a public school. Hence the word magnet, not charter, in its name. Columbia County should aim for a magnet school, not a charter school. I grew up in Richmond County and wish we had had a public magnet school to attend then. The only schools my children attended were Richmond County public schools. They didn't move here from another county, either, they grew up right here.

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 07/26/14 - 12:03 am
6
1
Davidson

I remember hearing Tom Tuckey speak with a group of people in the past. They were discussing the families coming to Augusta(Cyber Command) and the local high schools. Many of the people from Columbia County didn't like the comment about sending his children to Davidson if he lived in the CSRA.. The IB program at ARC was also mentioned in the discussion.. The RCBOE should hurry up and expand Davidson/AR Johnson before many of those families move here..

The most recent US News and World Report ranking listed the Gwinnett School of Math, Science, and Tech ranked ahead of Davidson.. This is probably the first time in over a decade were Davidson ranked # 2 in Georgia(#73 in the US)..

geecheeriverman
3668
Points
geecheeriverman 07/26/14 - 03:44 am
4
7
Charter Schools

Charter Schools are coming, regardless of what some of the supporters of the NEA think. Col Cty does have good schools, but we need a system where the unions and the politicians do not control the curriculum. If the unions and the politicians would get out of public education system, schools would improve immediately.

Riverman1
90291
Points
Riverman1 07/26/14 - 04:57 am
6
3
A Question

Does Davidson accept students with physical and developmental disabilities? How many such students do they have? Realize regular county schools have to accept all students.

Understand it's the students and their families who make the school, not the school making the students. This is true in every school system and school whether magnet or charter. Give me the demographics of the families of students who will be attending a school and I can predict the academic success of the school without knowing anything about the faculty, curriculum or facilities.

Riverman1
90291
Points
Riverman1 07/26/14 - 04:52 am
5
1
Valid Concept But Not Needed

According to all the tests, Columbia County has one of the best school systems in the state. Thus, I doubt this charter school is needed. However, the principle of the people controlling their schools more than is done currently is valid to most conservatives. If I were on the BOE I'd be very careful denigrating the concept in conservative Columbia County.

nocnoc
47073
Points
nocnoc 07/26/14 - 05:12 am
7
0
Davidson - My family can't knock it (pun intended)

We had 3 and still have 2 in the Davidson school (wife's side of the family)

The oldest just left for the Annapolis for Officer school.
He had his choice of 4 other colleges also with a full free ride .

But Davidson is NOT nor does it accept everyone.
It is tough, disciplined, and a ZERO BS excuse school.
It sets extremely high academic expectations and average students without study and behavior discipline can't cut it and are given their marching papers.

BTW: Parents don't seem to have a problem getting their kids to school either.

nocnoc
47073
Points
nocnoc 07/26/14 - 05:14 am
4
1
QUESTION TO THE RCBOE

Why no Magnet School on the South Side?

corgimom
36533
Points
corgimom 07/26/14 - 05:45 am
1
3
geechee, there are no unions

geechee, there are no unions in CC schools.

And politicians do not control CC schools.

I hope that the people that want to establish the charter school will fix the weaknesses that the board objected to, and resubmit their petition.

nocnoc
47073
Points
nocnoc 07/26/14 - 06:10 am
3
1
C-Mom 6:45AM

C-Mom made a valid point "...politicians do not control CC schools."

What self protecting BOE is going to approve a Charter School that statistics have shown can teach students to higher standards, when given a student that wants the education, is given the correct learning environment and is allowed the opportunity to excel in something they find interesting?

Some one wake me when a BOE approves a Charter School without a fight, or without watering down of the discipline or educational requirements for attendance.

BOE's will surely try to find ways to sabotage the Charter School process / concept once parents see that their kids can get better educations in a less hostile setting.

Riverman1
90291
Points
Riverman1 07/26/14 - 06:15 am
7
0
Noc, Racial Quota?

Noc, how does the racial quota thing work at Davidson?

Corgimom, personally, I call elected BOE members politicians.

corgimom
36533
Points
corgimom 07/26/14 - 07:24 am
1
3
Charter schools typically

Charter schools typically open in areas where people are dissatisfied with the local schools.

And that just isn't the case with CC.

Riverman, all school districts are controlled by a BOE, there isn't any way that a district can operate without one. Geechee wants schools operated without politicians, and if you consider BOE members politicians, then that would be an impossible thing.

Truth Matters
7825
Points
Truth Matters 07/26/14 - 10:05 am
3
2
"He had his choice of 4 other

"He had his choice of 4 other colleges also with a full free ride ."

With all due respect, I understand what you mean by "free ride". But I consider this "merit" because the kid worked hard and EARNED this.
The word "free" caught my attention b/c there is so much finger pointing about freebies in this forum.

BTW, congrats to the Annapolis bound student.

Truth Matters
7825
Points
Truth Matters 07/26/14 - 10:17 am
4
1
"Riverman, all school

"Riverman, all school districts are controlled by a BOE, there isn't any way that a district can operate without one."

A functioning BOE is required to maintain accreditation, as Clayton County Schools learned when SACS revoked its accreditation.

bright idea
860
Points
bright idea 07/26/14 - 11:00 am
1
1
There is some fear

of competition for money by local school boards no doubt but they also fear a short-term fad that could flame out. Most kids who end up making a living in the arts have a God given gift or talent. Throwing open the doors of a new school for every kid to learn such a talent is suspect. If the standards are even perceived to be lower many will rush to enroll and this school will have the same old issues as other public schools. The CCBOE was wise not to rubber stamp this idea. Let the state accept responsibility and avoid the boondoggle.

Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 07/26/14 - 11:58 am
1
3
Cherry Picking
Unpublished

It's easy to have the high test scores and graduation rates at a school like Davidson when you can cherry pick the very best students and you don't have to accept students with developmental disabilities. Question: Does Davidson have a special Ed program?

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 07/26/14 - 12:40 pm
2
2
Nocnoc... Richmond County

Nocnoc... Richmond County Tech opened in the 2012/2013 school year.. The RCBOE needs to do a much better job of promoting their schools, because you lived here and didn't even know..

Butterman... Can you name one county in Georgia with over 200,000 people and no magnet school? Columbia County will definitely need one in the future similar to the suburbs of Atlanta..

historylover
14010
Points
historylover 07/26/14 - 05:02 pm
1
0
Riverman1

I don't believe that there would be a racial quota issue at Davidson since it appears to have a pretty equal number of all races. Our nephew graduated from there and he earned every one of the scholarships granted to him. It's a very hard school on purpose and I support it wholeheartedly.

Charter schools are not the same as Magnet schools. I don't think CC needs a Charter school given the very high rating of it's present schools.

Thanks Countyman for the reminder about Richmond County Tech. Can you tell us what the qualifications are to attend that school? I have no idea. Thanks

Riverman1
90291
Points
Riverman1 07/27/14 - 04:11 am
0
0
Davidson Racial Quotas

Here's something to think about. The Richmond County schools have nearly 75% black students, but Davidson has a 50-50 white-black population. At least that's the goal that's been voiced in the past. Doesn't that actually discriminate against black students? If we're going to play the quota game realize it can cut both ways.

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