ALBANY, Ga. -- The Grady County Board of Education has petitioned the Georgia Board of Education to convert Cairo High School to a charter school to be called the Cairo High School, a College and Career Academy (CHS/CCA).
Cairo's proposed move is believed to be the first in the nation in which a public high school would convert into a college and career academy.
According to the conversion charter petition submitted to the state last month, the "curriculum at CHS/CCA will focus on the integration of academics and advanced CTAE (career, technical, agricultural education). According to our partnership's knowledge, the CHS/CCA conversion will be the first to integrate CTAE with academics in the only high school in the country as a first structural tier."
The structure of the proposed conversion is almost identical to the charter plan for Albany's College and Career Academy, which was rejected in September by the Dougherty School Board in a controversial 4-3 decision.
The fact that Cairo High failed to make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) for five straight years was a factor in the conversion decision, as was filling a regional need.
"There is no doubt that there is a need for a college and career academy in Southwest Georgia," Cairo Principal David McCurry said Thursday. "That and a possible $3.2 million college and career academy start-up grant from the Technical College System of Georgia were definite factors."
The new school's second structural tier will include working relationships with two public colleges -- Southwest Georgia Tech and Bainbridge College -- and the private Thomas College.
"The CCA will benefit all the students at Cairo High School. We currently offer 14 AP (advanced placement) classes and will see that number increase," McCurry said. "The charter will also allow us some autonomy with blended CTAE and core curriculums. We think the idea is innovative, and we will ask the state for waivers everywhere we think they are needed."
While CHS-CAA would technically be a public school, it will also operate as a nonprofit corporation, led by a CEO and an appointed board of directors that will answer to the Grady County School Board.
The project has the blessing of the Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce.
"We recognize that a world-class education system is the root of the economic development equation. The College and Career Academy will be a strategic marketing asset in our community and economic development portfolio," the chamber said in an emailed statement. "It gives the Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce and the Grady County Joint Development Authority a global competitive advantage in the business recruitment marketplace and makes the statement that our community is serious about high-quality preparation of our students for pathways to college and/or careers. We value innovation, entrepreneurship and higher education at all levels.
"We enthusiastically support Cairo High School's strategic application for the College and Career Academy."
Grady County School Superintendent Tommy Pharis said he thinks the new school will dovetail perfectly with state School Superintendent John Barge's "career pathway" and "work-ready work force" plans for Georgia's public high schools.
"There is no doubt that the college and career academy is a perfect fit with career pathways and work-ready work force," Pharis said. "We're really looking at the best of both worlds here. It will help keep kids in school, lift our graduation rates and expand our AP programs.
"It is really is a win-win for everybody."