Parents, supporters happy with Senoia charter school decision

Parents and supporters of the Coweta Charter Academy could not be happier with the announcement July 14 that an arrangement brokered by Gov. Nathan Deal, members of the General Assembly and the Georgia Dept. of Education (DOE) will provide local funding dollars that will allow the school to re-open for grades K-4 in August for the 2011-2012 school year.

The previous announcement earlier this summer that the Senoia school and others would receive state dollars for the coming year was offset locally by the near unanimous vote by the Coweta County Board of Education to withhold funding from local property tax dollars that make up approximately 50 percent of the needed funds to operate the school.

But all that changed last week with the announcement that the Coweta Charter Academy and seven other charter schools would receive the equivalent of the local dollars that the schools in their respective districts had been denied.

“The State will forward fund the bricks-and-mortar, state-chartered special schools for an amount equal to the average local share in their attendance zones,” said Louis Erste, Charter Schools Division Director for DOE. “This will bring state-chartered special school revenues to the same amount they would have received as (Georgia Charter) Commission schools.”

The Georgia Charter Schools Association credited Gov. Deal, House Speaker Jan Jones (R-Milton), Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Canton) and state school superintendent John Barge with brokering the arrangement.

Charter Schools USA operates the Senoia school. Spokesman Richard Page said his company was notified of the decision during the late morning hours July 14.

“We’re very excited that the governor has demonstrated leadership in support of school choice initiatives,” said Page. “We’ll be opening on time and as planned and we look forward to continuing to operate the Senoia school.”

One of the charter school’s parents is Senoia City Councilman Maurice Grover, who has one child at East Coweta Middle School and another at the charter school.

“We’re extremely happy about the decision. We had already been moving forward and getting prepared for this day. And we’ll be ready to move forward to work with the state on funding for the coming years,” Grover said, adding a comment about the relevance of the charter school. “A lot of kids come out of the Coweta County School System with an excellent education, but it just doesn’t work for everybody.”

Grover also noted his appreciation to Sen. Mitch Seabaugh for his diligence in supporting the charter school and the school choice movement.
Also commenting on the decision, Senoia business owner and charter school supporter Scott Tigchelaar said the community is pleased to see Gov. Deal and legislators stand behind their commitment to educational choice in Georgia.

“And we were pleased to see them keep a level head while others were displaying a lack of good judgment in this issue,” Tigchelaar said. “We’ve long been a proponent of charter schools so this is obviously a happy day for parents and students of the Coweta Charter Academy.”

Coweta Charter Academy Principal Terry Stollar in commenting on the decision said the August re-opening as anticipated for grades K-4 will allow the Senoia school to make a positive contribution to the Coweta community.

“Coweta Charter Academy will continue to provide a viable educational option for the students and parents in Coweta County,” Stollar said. “Everyone involved with the school is very excited about the school opening as scheduled on August 8. The faculty, staff, families and administration look forward to the many celebrations of success and being a valuable part of the community by participating in outreach programs.”

The other charter schools to receive local equivalent funding include the Odyssey School in Coweta County, Atlanta Heights Charter School in Atlanta, Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology in Bulloch County, Cherokee Charter Academy in Cherokee County, Fulton Leadership Academy in Fulton County, Heritage Preparatory Academy in Atlanta, Pataula Charter Academy in Baker, Clay, Calhoun, Early and Randolph counties.

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