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Charter School Commission hears DCSS officials and charter school proponents

ATLANTA — Officials from a proposed new charter school and the Dougherty County School System met with the State Charter School Commission (SCSC) member Tony Lowden late Monday afternoon as both sides had an opportunity to present their cases for and against the proposed River School for Children STEM Charter School (RSCSTC).

Last month the Dougherty County School Board voted 3-3 to deny board support for the school’s charter application. In response, RSCSA CEO Jewel Faison immediately asked for a meeting before the SCSC. Under Georgia law, the SCSC will not consider a charter school’s petition for approval unless the local school board denies the petition.

The denial incurred the wrath of Faison, who fired off a three-page news release last Monday in which she accused Board Chair Carol Tharin, interim Superintendent Butch Mosely and board attorney Tommy Coleman of using “bullying tactics” to squash the proposed new charter school.

“Longtime Dougherty County School System (DCSS) Board Attorney Tommy Coleman with Board Chairperson, Carol Tharin and Interim Superintendent Dr. David “Butch” Mosely have launched a personal and highly troubling campaign towards eliminating new, innovative, and desperately needed educational opportunities for Dougherty County’s parents and students.,” Faison wrote in a news release. “At its regularly scheduled August 21, 2013, Board meeting, and at the recommendation and direction of Coleman, the DCSS Board failed to approve The River School for Children STEM Academy as a local grassroots affiliated public charter school in a 3-3 deadlocked vote; one Board member was absent. Despite the public overture of one Board member for additional time for information gathering and discussion, Coleman erroneously advised the Board that, “You must vote on this today!”

DCSS Public Information Director said charter school officials did not follow procedures established by the state in requesting charter approval from the School Board.

“The system has followed the rules and procedures established for charter application while the proposed charter organization has not. Our board is elected to serve the best educational interests of the children and youth of Dougherty County and has the oversight responsibility to protect the employees of this school system,” Harter said. “In its vote, the board allowed the process to work as it should. The charter applicant can now pursue state approval for their application with the state charter commission even though they have not followed the process outlined by state law and department of education policy. In the interest of county taxpayers, our board and system leadership have the responsibility to attend the session at which the current charter applicant is begin considered.”

Mosely, Tharin, and Board Member Darrel Ealum represented the DCSS in Atlanta.

“I thought our portion of the meeting went very well,” Tharin said. “They were very cordial to us and asked a lot of questions and made several good points. I got the impression he (Lowden) realized there were several deficiencies in the charter application.

“We pointed out the money the DCSS stood to lose and that the application represents a duplication of service because (the school) would not serve a unique group.”

Faison did not return several phone calls seeking comment on the meeting Monday afternoon.

After considering the charter school’s application and the school system’s objections, the full state commission will likely vote on the matter sometime next month.