On Thursday, Aug. 29, school leaders and board members gathered at Albany State University for “The State of Georgia Charter Schools” in Albany. It’s the second in a series of three informational forums being held by the Georgia Charter Schools Association in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Education (Charter Schools Division) and the State Charter Schools Commission throughout the state.
During the event, Georgia Sen. Freddie Powell Sims (District 12) welcomed attendees to her district. With the addition of The Collegiate Academy of Albany, a newly approved charter school that plans to open in Albany, the Georgia Senator will soon have five public charter schools in her district. Sen. Powell Sims stressed the important role charter schools play within Georgia’s overall public school system.
“It’s not about competition. It’s about educating all of our children,” said Sen. Powell Sims. “And all children don’t have the same needs … so they have options and choices, and I strongly believe in that.”
Following Powell Sims’ speech, Tony Roberts, Georgia Charter Schools Association’s President and CEO, told charter school leaders and board members that GCSA is here to serve them. Roberts said GCSA is committed to partnering with member schools to improve public education in Georgia.
“We believe that every child has the right to a great education so they can have a wonderful future,” said Roberts.
During his speech, Roberts thanked Dr. Kathaleena Edward Monds, Founding Director of the Center for Educational Opportunity (CEO) at Albany State University for hosting the event. The Center for Educational Opportunity focuses on the research, innovation and inquiry into K-12 educational issues to improve products and services within the educational marketplace, particularly for those living in fragile communities.
Participants also heard from Atlanta attorney Glenn Delk who worked with a new nonprofit formed by the Hughes Family Foundation to create The Collegiate Academy of Albany. The college-preparatory public charter school is expected to open in Albany next fall after receiving approval in July from the State Charter Schools Commission. Upon opening, the Collegiate Academy of Albany will become part of the SABIS Network®, a global network of schools that has existed for more than 130 years.
Following Delk’s speech, Elisa Falco, GCSA’s Executive Vice President of School Success, told attendees about the strong governance, culturally responsive pedagogy and implicit bias training the association offers as well as a multitude of services that include the association’s Board Bank program, crisis communications assistance and GaTAPP, an alternative certification program for teachers. She also informed leaders that GCSA has received approval from the Georgia Department of Education to provide a Financial Management Certification program for school leaders, CFOs, other financial team members and anyone in school leadership. Falco said GCSA plans to align services to performance frameworks. She also spoke about the mission and success of GCSA’s Charter Incubator program and the Charter School Leadership Center.
Bonnie Holliday, GCSA’s Executive Vice President of Policy and External Relations, and RaShaun Holliman, GCSA’s Sr. Vice President of Advocacy and Government Relations, unveiled Georgia Charter Schools Association’s policy agenda and strategy for the 2020 legislative session.
Allen Mueller, Director of District Flexibility and Charter Schools Division at the Georgia Department of Education, gave key regulatory, support and accountability updates that included information on the charter school lottery process, an upcoming Charter Schools Rule revision, the recent distribution of State Facilities Grants, an online application process that will be rolled out later this year and next steps in the Comprehensive Performance Framework the department has developed.
Participants then heard from Katie Manthey, Director of Research and Evaluation for the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia. Manthey gave an overview of the SCSC’s mission, diverse portfolio of schools and work to authorize, support and hold schools accountable. She also spoke about SCSC research initiatives, updates to the SCSC’s Comprehensive Performance Framework and guidance on newly approved legislation. Manthey informed attendees that the SCSC recently approved the largest number of petitions for new schools in its history and gave back more than $4.4 million to schools in FY19 through the reduced withhold.
During the event, participants received a free lunch generously provided by GCSA Associate Member Make Music Count, LLC.
GCSA plans to hold its remaining “State of Georgia Charter Schools” event in Savannah at Savannah Classical Academy. The forum was originally scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 4, but was postponed due to forecasts for Hurricane Dorian. Georgia Charter Schools Association plans to reschedule the event and will keep interested parties informed once a new date has been established.