Academy Prepares Appeal
The Academy of Moore County is ready for a fight to keep the charter school open.
The State Board of Education voted in March not to renew the school's charter - citing "low performance" as the reason. The school has hired the Shanahan Law Group in Raleigh to prepare an appeal.
Cases involving the status of a school's charter are heard by an administrative law judge with the state Office of Administrative Hearings, said Michael Denning, one of the attorneys representing the school.
Denning said the petition basically argues that the state board didn't provide a sufficient reason for not renewing the school's charter and asks the judge to stop the board's action. The judge would then make a determination if the state board acted properly.
"In this case, we're saying that the agency (the state board) acted without good cause, which they're required to have to revoke the charter under the statute," Denning said, "and they acted arbitrarily and capriciously simply because they sent them a letter saying, 'We're not going to renew their charter.'"
The state board decided not to renew the charter despite the implementation of a corrective action plan that school officials believe accomplished what it was supposed to. Though the school received a "low-performing" designation in 2008, it met its growth expectations last year.
It moved into a new $2.2 million facility on U.S. 15-501 south of Aberdeen last summer, and Principal Allyson Schoen expects her students to meet growth expectations again.
Denning doesn't expect the school to close at the end of the school year as originally anticipated.
"Pending administrative action, typically the agency action is stayed," Denning said, "or in this case, the agency would not be allowed to remove The Academy's charter, so the school would stay open until the final determination of the case, whether that's at the administrative level or the Superior Court level."
Depending on what the judge decides, either side could appeal the matter to Superior Court.
Denning said he is confident about The Academy's chances.
"I think they've got a very compelling story," Denning said. "It seems to me to be very straightforward."
Schoen said that from the beginning, the school has been providing the attorneys with documentation that demonstrates the progress it has made since enacting the corrective action plan two years ago.
Schoen said time is of the essence, because parents want to know where their children will go to school next year, and teachers need to know if they will have a job there.
"It's a waiting game," she said. "We're playing a waiting game right now."
This year, the school has 174 students from Moore, Scotland, Hoke and Richmond counties. It has a waiting list of about 100.
Many parents of students at the school have expressed concerns about their children returning to the public school system. Some have said that their children had difficulties in public school but have flourished since coming to The Academy. Others have pointed out that the public schools they would be assigned to are low-performing.
Schoen questioned why the state wasn't involved with the school a few years ago when it was really struggling, since those are the numbers the state board seemed to focus on when it made its decision.
"I don't understand why [during] those years someone didn't come in and say, 'Hey, you know, it's time for somebody to step it up here. You guys are not performing. Your students are failing, and you need to make some changes,'" she said.
Schoen said she hasn't heard anything from the state since the board's decision was handed down. She said she has received a lot of positive feedback and support from the community.
"Wherever I go in town, people ask, 'Hey, what's going on with the school? I hope they make it. What a tragedy, you just built that $2.2 million building. I don't understand. Why are they closing you down?'" she said. "I think there's a lot of people in the community that are behind us 110 percent."
Contact John Krahnert III by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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