Wisdom Academy among eight Wake charter school hopefuls

sbarr@newsobserver.comJanuary 11, 2014 

— For three years, Wisdom Academy, a proposed charter school in Southeast Raleigh, worked with an outside organization on their application to the state.

Every time, they failed to make the final cut.

Now, in their fourth attempt, Wisdom Academy officials are going it alone, with the hope of opening their doors for the 2015-2016 school year.

“We just felt that it was best that we try on our own,” said Tawana James, who helped develop the plan for the school. She said the school’s goal is to educate at-risk youth and integrate the arts into all areas of the curriculum.

In earlier applications, the school had said they intended to work with Michigan-based GPS Management Services to manage the school. But James said the state board was hesitant about the group, which doesn’t have a presence in North Carolina.

Meeting minutes from the last time state officials considered the school show many questions were asked about GPS, though a motion not to move Wisdom’s application forward passed narrowly, by a vote of 5-4.

James said she’s optimistic the change will make a difference this time around.

While Wisdom’s repeated attempts are unusual, they show the kinds of decisions potential charter schools must make when applying. A group of 71 charter applicants who want to open in 2015 will find out Monday whether state officials approved of their approach when the state Office of Charter Schools decides which applications to move forward in the process.

The applicants include seven other charters in Wake County, eight in Durham County and one in Franklin County. Of those, several likely would end up in Raleigh: PAVE Southeast Raleigh Charter School, James Madison Academy, Capital City Charter High School, Central Wake Charter High School and Cardinal Charter Academy at N. Raleigh.

Charters are public schools that do not have to follow all of the regulations that traditional public schools do and are independent from the school system. Some are managed by for-profit companies.

In addition, the State Board of Education last week gave final approval to 26 charter schools that will open for the 2014-2015 school year. The group includes four in Wake County: Cardinal Charter Academy, Dynamic Community Charter, Envision Science Academy and Wake Forest Charter Academy. The board’s decision will kick of a busy period of building, recruitment and enrollment for them.

The flurry of charter activity this month occurs in the midst of a continuing debate about the value of the schools. Supporters say the schools give families more choices, while critics argue they harm traditional public schools.

T. Keung Hui contributed to this report

Barr: 919-836-4952

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