Fayette BoE says ‘No’ to charter school
Barry Marchman casts lone vote favoring approval; would provide ‘motivation’ for other system schools
The July 28 vote by the Fayette County Board of Education ended as expected. The board on a 4-1 vote followed the recommendation of Superintendent Jody Barrow to deny the application that would have Liberty Tech Charter School become a part of the Fayette County School System. As a result, Liberty Tech will make its case to the Ga. Charter School Commission to become a state charter school.
Barrow in his comments prior to making the recommendation said there were issues pro and con concerning the approval of the school.
On the down side, Barrow he was concerned about the school’s fiscal viability and the viability of a suitable location. Barrow noted that the school board recently closed four schools, asking if it made sense to create another school using public funds.
“If we think the (Ga. Charter Schools) commission will approve the school it would cost the district less, and if the state does approve it the school system is not accountable for the results,” Barrow said.
On the positive side, Barrow said he understood that some parents want choice options.
Of note was Barrow’s recognition of what he called the irony involved in the decision, since all state school systems are currently considering state-imposed flexibility models. As has been previously reported, the main choice for school systems thus far has been the option of becoming charter school systems.
Citing his concerns about Liberty Tech’s fiscal viability, Barrow said he believed the school system, too, was not in sufficient financial shape at this point in time to recommend accepting the application. That said, Barrow recommended denial.
With that, board member Barry Marchman immediately made a motion to approve Liberty Tech. The motion died for lack of a second.
Board member Bob Todd then made a motion to accept Barrow’s recommendation. The motion received a second by board member Leonard Presberg, who later in the discussion said he supported Liberty Tech’s aims and goals.
Marchman responded, stating several reasons why he supported Liberty Tech. Marchman said Liberty Tech would make the county look innovative, would foster goodwill and would provide an interesting education option at little or no cost to the school system.
“(Liberty Tech) will do this with or without us. The state can send them money or the state can send us money. We can have some control or we can give up all control,” Marchman said. “Liberty Tech, if successful, will motivate all our other schools to be more successful and to strive to be the school of choice in their attendance zone. This is absolutely a unique educational offering in our county. Fayette does not use the classical education model that has been proven successful over the decades. Fayette schools do not have a heavy focus on virtues or values.”
Board member Barry Marchman (L) votes in favor of the charter school proposal Monday night. Opposing it are (from right to left) are Leonard Presberg, Bob Todd, Marion Key, Superintendent Jody Barrow and Dan Colwell. Photo/Ben Nelms.
Liberty Tech representative Christi McCully in comments to the board said Liberty Tech wants to be a Fayette County school. Doing so, she said, would bring a number of the home-schooled and private school students back to the school system.
Information provided by McCully before the meeting on an informal poll of parents showed that 63 public school children would attend Liberty Tech, as would 95 students being taught at home or attending private schools.
The vote to accept Barrow’s negative recommendation was 4-1, with Presberg, Todd, Dan Colwell and Marion Key in favor and Marchman opposed.
A check by The Citizen in 2011 covering a six-year period showed that an average of 1,287 Fayette children per year attend private schools while 809 are taught at home.
Meantime, the Fayette school system has lost approximately 2,000 students since 2008 and enrollment has dropped to its 2001 level.
While the school system receives property taxes from all property owners, whether or not their children attend private schools or are taught at home, the system receives state money at a rate of approximately $4,000 per student for those who attend Fayette schools.