Dougherty County School Board member Carol Tharin asks a question during a public hearing Tuesday on the proposed Albany College and Career Academy charter school petition application. The school board will vote on the matter next week.
ALBANY — With an approval vote on a proposed Albany College and Career Academy just one week away, Dougherty County School Superintendent Joshua Murfree held an open meeting Tuesday to allow School Board members who had reviewed the charter petition application to ask questions.
“This college and career academy fits in perfectly with (State School Superintendent) John Barge’s ‘Career Pathways’ plan,” Murfree said. “It will improve our dropout and graduation rates and better prepare our children for careers. We never know who is watching and who is listening to what we are doing ... but people are watching and looking now.”
The charter proposal calls for a gradual “repurposing” over the next five years of Albany High School as the home of the ACCA, whose mission is “to produce college and career-ready graduates with relevant skills and education and with exceptional work ethic who can compete and succeed in our global economy.”
Former DCSS Board Chairman Commodore Conyers, a member of the ACCA’s Executive Steering Committee, urged the community to support, and the board to vote for, approval of the charter.
“This is a most important decision we are about to make,” said Conyers. “This committee has been working for more than a year to put together a package that will benefit the boys and girls of Dougherty County. The College and Career Academy will bring stability back to this school system.
“All of us are working together for the betterment of our children, and all of us need to do what has to be done.”
Mt. Zion Baptist Church Pastor Daniel Simmons, however, said he was “violently opposed” to the proposed charter school.
“The origin of this plan raises a red flag for many in the community,” Simmons said. “They are telling the board and the superintendent that ‘you are ignorant and incompetent.’ If you approve this plan, it will take us back to the days of Jim Crow.”
ACCA would be run by an autonomous policymaking board of nine voting members, called directors, and a chief executive office who would be appointed by and answer to the directors.
The directors would be chosen from the community and would comprise:
- One member nominated by the superintendent and the local board to represent secondary education.
- Three members to represent post-secondary education nominated by the presidents of Albany Technical College, Albany State University and Darton State College.
- One high school parent member (who is not an employee of the local board or any participating college) jointly selected by the school system’s high school principals.
- Two business members nominated by the Board of Directors of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.
- Two business members nominated by the Board of Directors of the Albany Dougherty Economic Development Commission.
“We intend to turn out a product that the business community will want and will keep our young people in Albany, Georgia,” Committee Chair Bobby McKinney said. “While we want to keep these people in Albany, we also want to make sure that they can earn a living no matter where they are.”
According to educational consultant Russ Moore, who has been working with the board and committee since the project’s inception in May of last year, the ACCA’s vision is sixfold:
- Create a seamless blend of high school, college and jobs.
- Earn academic credit for CTAE (Career, Technology and Agricultural Education) electives.
- Create hybrid classes.
- Provide a laptop with Internet access for each student.
- Create a school run like a business.
- Create a culture of relevance that will dramatically increase graduation rates.
Those goals were still not enough to convince community activist Bishop John Burr.
“There is no question that we need to repair our high schools,” Burr said. “But I worry about the Board of Education not being in charge of this charter school. I am 100 percent behind charter schools, but now is not the time here. We need to take that money and fix what we have in place.”
The board is expected to vote on the charter application at its June 27 meeting. If approved, the system has until Aug. 1 to submit the charter petition to the state for approval. If approved by the state, the new charter school would begin operation in August of the 2013-14 school year.