Monday Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all-girls commissioned charter school with some 480 students located in Peachtree Corners, was dealt a big blow when the Georgia Supreme Court ruled its charter unconstitutional.
In a 4-3 decision the high court ruled against the Peachtree Corners school and 15 other Georgia "commissioned" charter schools. The decision affects some 15,000 students state wide.
Ivy Preparatory Academy is one of the 16 charter schools that was not approved by a local school board but were approved by the state-appointed Georgia Charter Commission thus were given the designation as a "commissioned charter" school.
In a show of support over 200 attended a rally Monday night held at the school's campus at 5 p.m. Nina Gilbert, Head of School for Ivy Preparatory Academy offered words of encouragement to the students, parents and teachers who attended.
"We've had a wonderful school year," said Gilbert. "But as all of you know the news we received today was not favorable for commission schools. There's been a lot of effort at the legislative level and at the governor's office. ... I've been in meetings all day with our attorneys."
The fight to keep the schools doors open is not over she said. "I'm told by our attorneys that the Attorney General must provide clarification .... and we can then go back through the ruling to determine what we can do."
The staff, student and parents were preparing to attend a rally at the state capitol today to show their support. "We will rally peacefully," she said. "We want to show that we are serious about our children's education. We must stand up, speak up and show up."
Gilbert said she is hopeful but wanted to also be realistic. "There may be changes," she said referring to the possibility that the school will lose part of its funding. And for some schools it could determine whether they are able to open their doors when school starts in the fall. The school was denied a local charter by Gwinnett County due partially to its single-gender model said Gilbert.
"It's a shame, it's come down to money rather than education," said BJ Van Gundy, one of seven appointed board members of the Charter School Commission who attended the rally Monday.
Van Gundy, a Peachtree Corners resident, said he's not anti-public schools. "I've got three kids attending Gwinnett County Public Schools," he said. Van Gundy said he's had an opportunity first hand to observe several classes in session and was impressed with the school's approach to teaching.
A number of parents stood up to give support offering personal testimonies on just what the school meant to them and to their children.
U.S. Army Capt. Jacqueline Isabell, the parent of a sixth grader, spoke emotionally about the school. "I will fight for this school like I fought for our country overseas," she said tearfully.
Georgia County Public Schools superintendent offered a statement on Monday in response to the high court ruling that local school boards had sole authority to fund and open public charter schools.
"We are pleased with the Court's decision," said Alvin Wilbanks, Superintendent for Gwinnett County Public Schools in a statement issued Monday. "While some tried to paint this lawsuit as an anti-charter school case, nothing could be further from the truth.
"At its heart, this was a constitutional question, one that has been answered once and for all. The Supreme Court has ruled correctly that the Commission does not have the constitutional authority to establish schools and direct local dollars to the operation of those Commission-approved schools...."
Additional information about Georgia's charter schools:
177 total charter schools
16 commissioned charter schools approved by the State Charter Commission (9 currently open, 7 more due to open in the fall)
15,000 students currently attending commission-approved charter schools