The case for an additional charter school in Douglas County was brought forward Monday night at the Douglas County Board of Education meeting.
Douglas County School System Chief Academic Officer Pam Nail presented information about the charter school petition from Bettye Cardwell School of International Studies.
Nail cited several points to consider in approving a proposed charter school, including the fact that Douglas County already has a language emersion program like the one proposed for the charter school at Beulah Elementary School and the challenge of having the resources needed for an emersion program in the proposed charter school.
Nail also listed concerns as to the timeline for the school’s opening, funding for the startup and the budget as it relates to the contents that are in it.
She also brought up the points of entrance age, the fact that class sizes had not been supplied and that resumes that were submitted do not correlate with positions.
A letter of intent postmarked Dec. 28, 2016, to open the Bettye Cardwell School of International Studies was received upon return from the winter break in January and the petition was hand delivered to the central office on Feb. 1, 2017, the deadline for submission, according to Nail.
According to Nail, a recommendation to approve or deny the petition will be presented to the board at the May 1, 2017 Board of Education meeting.
A letter of intent was submitted to the state and local boards of education by Sharon Hathorn, who was listed as the charter school's executive officer.
Hathorn and her husband, Michael, were present at Monday night’s meeting, but did not speak during the school board meeting.
Nail said that she and other department heads met with the petitioner, Michael Hathorn, recently to allow him to respond to some of their questions and to provide him an opportunity to share any additional information about the proposed school.
If approved, the charter school would meet in the original location of Brighten Academy at 3264 Brookmont Parkway, Hathorn said. Brighten moved a few years ago to a bigger campus on Prestley Mill Road. Initially planned to be a kindergarten through fourth grade school, Hathorn said she plans to add a grade level each year through 12th grade by 2025-2026.
The charter school would offer a dual-language emersion program, offering French, Spanish, Mandarin, Latin, German and English. Hathorn said that students in K-12 will spend 50 percent of their day learning with a new language and 50 percent in their native language.
The projected enrollment for the new charter school, if approved, is 484 students. To date, Hathorn said she has about 200 who have sent letters of intent to attend the school, which, if approved, would begin this fall.
In other action, the Douglas County Board of Education is exploring the possibility of implementing a 90-day pilot program with a software vendor that will help the school system maximize FTE funding. The school board originally received information on the proposal in a special called meeting on March 20.
FTE or Full Time Equivalency count is conducted three times each year. Students are classified as a regular or general education student or a special education. If a student, in accordance with an Individualized Education Program or IEP, is not receiving services during fall semester due to scheduling, but will receive services in the spring, the school system should code the student are receiving services in the IEP.
“This does not change a student’s classification for services, but how they are served,” Nail explained. “We want to get paid for the services of the school.”
School funding increases are based on the number of services a child receives and the computer software could help identify gaps in eligible funding, according to Nail.
“The software will identify students missed based on scheduling,” she said. “Each classification on FTE day earns a certain amount. It could be that we are missing oversights this software could indentify.”
According to Nail, the computer software could formulate the school system’s data and potential raise an additional $8 million funding.
If approved by the board, the Douglas County School System would be first system in the state to test drive the program, she said.
Douglas County Schools Superintendent Gordon Pritz brought this before the board to take action on this item at the April 10 meeting, as the item is time sensitive.
However, school board members Michelle Simmons and Devetrion Caldwell said they would like to have a little more time to evaluate the information. School board member Jeff Morris said he was ready to move forward with the proposal; BOE member D.T. Jackson said that he was happy with a 90-day pilot of the program.
A called meeting will be announced later this month to decide on the proposal.