The newly re-established Georgia Charter Schools Commission is just getting started.
The work is steep: staff to hire, policies to create, budgets to consider, charter school applications to review -- both new and renewals, and more.
Just last week, the commission hired Bonnie Holliday as its executive director Holliday, a former school teacher, was one of 31 candidates, and she begins on March 1.
Now, the commission can begin the task of going through an extensive list of awaiting schools.
"We are moving at warp speed," said Jose Perez, a Peachtree Corners resident who is a member of the commission.
Readers may recall that debate became contentious here when Peachtree Corners' Ivy Preparatory Academy, tried and failed twice to be approved by Gwinnett County Public Schools. Now, such schools could apply to the commission after being rejected at the local level.
Patch connected with Perez, who served on the state Board of Education from 2004-2011, about the commission's work. Read below the second part of our interview.
Patch: Ivy Prep was challenged extensively on its application to Gwinnett County school leaders, and now it exists as a state charter school and, I believe, lost funding in the process. Will this re-established make it easier for schools, like Ivy Prep Gwinnett, to exist?
Perez: As a member of the State Board of Education from ’04-’11, I was involved in the approval of Ivy Prep. My findings then indicated that the Gwinnett Board under the advisement of attorney determined that a single gender school could not be chartered unless an opposite gender school was also approved. My discussions with US DOE attorneys supported one side or the other depending on their interpretation of the statutes.
When escalated at the US DOE, the answer became that only a legal precedent set by a court decision could provide a definitive answer. So, after receiving information from Ivy Prep’s CPA, assessment of its business and academic achievement plans, and assurances of sustainability in spite of the lower state funding, the State Board of Ed. approved them as a special state charter school. B) The establishment of the Commission will make it easier for Charter Schools to exist mostly because of the extra funding per student will make more of them financially viable.
Patch: When will the commission begin consideration of charter schools, and how many can citizens expect to be approved a year?
Perez: Today’s State Charter Commission is beginning their work by examining the existing charter applications that have been brought to the State Board of Education. That pipeline composed of new applications and renewals is extensive, and we will over the next two months work closely with the DOE to approve or not on a timely basis, in an effort to provide certainty and the time needed to the schools preparing for the new school year. In addition, the Commission will shortly begin working closely with the Executive Director to establish a vision / mission, operational processes, and procedures that facilitate interaction with stakeholders.
Patch: Is there an annual budget set, including salaries of staff, and if not, when can that be expected?
Perez: We do not have a budget yet, but one is being established. On Wednesday, Feb. 20, the Commission hired Ms. Bonnie Holliday as the Executive Director. As a member of the search committee, we received and considered thirty-one (31) applicants. Based on the pre-established criteria, four (4) finalists were selected and interviewed before the search committee recommended Ms. Holliday for the position.
The Commission unanimously voted to hire Ms. Holiday as the Executive Director. We are working to establish a start date around March 1, and are moving quickly because there is little time and much to do. Once on board Ms. Holliday will begin the process of hiring the rest of the staff. In addition, we will also be working on the Charter applications and establishing the process of interaction with all stakeholders.
Patch: To that end, how much can approved charter schools expect to get in funding per student?
Perez: Like the formula for funding K-12 it is complicated and depends on the mix of grade level, special needs, ESOL, etc. As I become more familiar with the calculation of the numbers I will give you that ballpark you seek.
Patch: Where's the money going to come from?
Perez: To my understanding the budget to fund charter schools will be appropriated by the legislature. The funding of the Commission I do not know yet, we will be working on that next.
More on Charter Schools:
The Georgia Charter Schools Commission meets every fourth Wednesday of the month, and its next meeting is March 27. For more information on charter schools in Georgia, click here.
Do you have school news or a story idea you want to share, contact Local Editor Joy L. Woodson at Joy.Woodson@patch.com or call 404-539-9256.
-- How do you feel about the new Georgia Charter Schools Commission, and about charter schools in general? Let us know in the comment section below. --