Two file complaint against charter group
by Megan Thornton
October 31, 2012 12:41 AM | 3850 views | 14 14 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Two Cherokee County residents have filed Open Meetings Act complaints against Georgia Charter Educational Foundation, the governing board of Cherokee Charter Academy.

The nonprofit foundation is required to respond to the allegations by Nov. 6, according to a letter sent to a foundation representative by the state attorney general’s office where the complaints were filed.

Christine Rea, a parent of two former Charter Academy students, and Jennifer Hall, a Cherokee County School District teacher, filed two separate complaints during the month of October.

In a letter to Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter sent Oct. 8, Rea said her three complaints are: The board failed to advertise its Aug. 30 board meeting, improperly advertised for its Sept. 27 meeting and inappropriately entered into executive session for training and planning.

“The locations of the meetings for GCEF is rarely if ever published, but there are other members of the board who meet in person somewhere,” Rea stated in the letter. “ Some of its members call in this way to participate and vote, while others are clearly in a room together.”

The GCEF meetings are only accessible to the

public via teleconference call, according to the foundation’s meeting agendas.

Rea states GCEF is “not compliant” in posting meeting notices on its website.

“Sometimes notice is given a day in advance, sometimes two or three days,” her letter states.

Rea said no finalized meeting date was given at the close of the July 26 meeting for its next meeting and the organization did not post notice for its August meeting. She added that a meeting notice for the Sept. 27 meeting was posted for 9 a.m., though the meeting actually began at 10 a.m.

Rea’s final complaint was that at the Sept. 27 meeting, Board Chair Lyn Carden said the board would be entering into executive session for board training, which was listed as an executive session item but is not an item permitted to be discussed under executive session.

Sent Oct. 24, the day before GCEF’s most recent meeting, Hall’s letter also states the foundation violated the Open Meetings Act by advertising the incorrect time and date (Saturday, Oct. 27 at 9 a.m.) on its website, though Hall confirmed through another source that was incorrect.

The meeting was held Thursday, Oct. 25, at 11 a.m. Hall also included a copy of the posted agenda from the foundation’s website, which stated the meeting would be held Thursday, Sept. 27 at 9 a.m.

Rea said in an interview Tuesday her goal in filing the complaint is to make people aware, especially with the upcoming vote on Amendment 1, which would re-authorize the Georgia Charter Schools Commission after it was struck down by the Supreme Court in May.

The seven-member, appointed commission would be charged with hearing charter school petitions that have been turned down by local school boards.

“People need to know what’s going on and how they operate behind closed doors,” Rea said. “Our taxpayer dollars are funding this type of thing and people need to know, especially with Amendment 1 right now.”

Rea said she is very involved with the opposition to Amendment 1 and has been following GCEF closely since her three children were enrolled in Cherokee Charter Academy and after they re-enrolled in Cherokee County School District schools mid-year last year.

Rea said her complaint is not driven by ill will and not an organized attempt with Hall, whom she called an acquaintance, as she was unaware Hall filed her own complaint.

“I obviously was open enough to send my kids to a charter school and thought that school choice was important,” Rea said. “I still feel choice is important and think charter schools serve a purpose, but right now there’s a lot that seems to be wrong with how it’s being done.”

Rea said her hope is that the board makes the appropriate changes.

“Fix it. Make it right,” she said. “Don’t deny people that want to call in to conference call at a certain time and you’ve changed it deceptively.”

Rea said she has not yet received any correspondence from Ritter’s office.

Hall said she was prompted to file her complaint after she noticed the meetings continued to be improperly advertised.

“I can see a mistake being made once, but it’s a pattern of behavior,” Hall said.

As a longtime teacher, Hall said she is also a supporter of school choice but that is not the issue.

“(GCEF) needs to advertise properly and correctly so members of the general public can participate in these meetings,” Hall said.

Dated Friday, Oct. 26, Ritter sent a letter to Sandy Castro, state coordinator of operations for GCEF, citing only the complaint from Hall.

Ritter outlined Hall’s complaint in the letter to Castro: “Specifically, Ms. Hall asserts that the date and time is wrong on the October agenda on the website, the meetings are not advertised at least seven days in advance of the meeting and the schedule of regular meetings is not on the foundation’s website.”

Castro said in an email Tuesday she has received a request for a response to a complaint from the attorney general’s office.

“We have thoroughly researched the issue and the Georgia Charter Educational Foundation will submit their response to the Attorney General’s office within the allotted time as designated on the response request,” Castro said.

Ritter asks the foundation to provide a response to the allegations by Nov. 6.

Under Georgia law, the attorney general has the discretionary authority to enforce the Open Records Act, O.C.G.A 50-14-5(a). Attorney General Sam Olens established a mediation program to assist in resolving disputes between citizens and local governments, Ritter said.

In an interview Tuesday, Ritter said his office is geared toward trying to resolve citizen disputes with local governments.

“In a case like this, our first step is to read the letters and see if a valid argument is made that the (Open Records) Act is being violated,” Ritter said. “If so, we send a letter to their attorney and ask them to comment. When we get the comment back, then we can respond to them and tell them whether we think they are or are not in violation.”

Ritter said more than 80 percent of the time, local government agencies send back a “mea culpa” saying they were not aware of the violation and they intend to fix it.

“From our perspective, that resolves it,” Ritter said.

Ritter said he understood people are “anxious” to see his office’s findings prior to the election, but he said his office’s determination will occur after Election Day, which is the last day for GCEF to respond to the allegations.

But Hall had a very different take.

“(My complaint) doesn’t have anything to do with the vote,” Hall said. “ It’s not an issue with that because even if Amendment 1 does not pass, Cherokee Charter Academy doesn’t go away, nor would I want it to. Being resolved before or after (the election) makes no difference to me. I just want it resolved correctly and the transparency needs to be there.”

The Georgia Charter Educational Foundation Governing Board is made up of seven members charged with managing Cherokee Charter Academy and Coweta Charter Academy in Senoia, as well as each school’s approximately five-member Local Governing Council. The foundation serves as the founding board and petitioner for the two schools.
Comments
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libertarian teacher
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November 01, 2012
OK. I'm a public school teacher. I will be voting in favor of the amendment to allow the state to open charter schools because I believe it will create competition and that almost always improves performance. I am also for school choice and vouchers for the same reason.

That being said, the statistics comparing charter schools and regular public schools will always be in favor of charter, private, or choice schools. Why? Simple...because the students who go to these schools have parents that care. They have parents who drive them to work harder.

Many regular public school students also have parents that drive them to excellence, but many others don't. For this reason, many of these students don't perform as well, no matter what. As Herman Cain would say, these statistics are comparing apples to oranges.
M.P.
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November 01, 2012
The Fordham Foundation authorizes OHIO charter schools.

Here is data in Georgia for our state charter schools:

* State charters (75%) outperformed the state (72.7%) and districts they served (66.7%) in percent making AYP. Remember, these schools were only in operation 1-2 years, and research shows that the longer charters are open, the more their achievement increases...and they outperformed right out of the gate serving the same population of kids!

* State charters outperformed district schools in 4 out of 5 subject areas on the CRCT.

* High school graduation rate for our state charter was 95.8%...versus the district the charter served, which was at 69.03%.

* Students with Disabilities in state charters out performed districts they served by 6 percentage points.

Charters in GEORGIA are excelling.

It's always helpful to use relevant data when you are making an argument.
Eleanor M
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November 01, 2012
Your relevant data seems to pull out state charter schools separate from those charter schools approved by local school boards. Why not include all charter schools? On the grad rate, I see three state charter schools with posted grade rates on the State Dept of Ed website: Mountain Education Center with a reported grad rate of 25.07%. Odyssey School with a rate of 66.67%; and CCAT, also with a rate of 66.67%. Which state charter school has a 95% grad rate?
@ M.P.
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November 01, 2012
Thank you for making the argument that the system as it stands is working.

We do not need to amend the Georgia constitution to allow what local boards and Georgia can already do, and has done.

Local boards can already, and do authorize charter schools.

The state can already, and does authorize state special charter schools.

Your data statements are questionable. For example, the Georgia DOE states in its Annual Report on Charters that;

"During the 2010–11 school year, Georgia had 162 charter schools in operation serving 56 districts. Of these charter schools, 70% made Adequate Yearly Progress this year. This is comparable to the 73% of traditional public schools that made Adequate Yearly Progress this year."

Your "our state charter" line belies your bias.

Contrary to you comment, not all charters in Georgia are excelling.
Kay H
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October 31, 2012
Instead of personal attacks on the two citizens who had the courage to bring this information to light, maybe the question we should all be asking is why is this private group, using our taxpayer dollars to earn a profit off of children in a local school, not complying with the law? Open Records laws are not new, and these regulations are not difficult to follow. Other taxpayer-supported entities do it all the time. A pattern of abuse from the Georgia Charter Educational Foundation is certainly cause for concern for taxpayers!
Vote yes!
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October 31, 2012
Any time I see the leftist PTA and the Teacher groups fighting something so much - I know that I need to vote for it!

This just proves me right!
Fivekids
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October 31, 2012
Anonymous your statement is false.Christine Rea shame on you!
Wow, just wow!
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October 31, 2012
More desperate attempts from the educrats to shut down school choice in Ga. If that's the worst acusation that can be published about this high performing, state approved charter, then the show must go on. Continue giving our kids hope Ga!
My eyes are Burning
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October 31, 2012
Wow, the same Jennifer Hall that wore a shirt to our swim meet that said "Teachers against Chip Rogers" ? The same Jennifer Hall that is one of Janet Read's cheerleaders? Why, I'm shocked! I thought she had no agenda at all!!! Ms. Hall, Chip Rogers looks out for teachers more than you know! It's strange how teachers are more concerned with their paycheck than they are about anything else.

And Bless you, Chip Rogers for enduring these single-minded hens that should be focusing on educating our children, not slandering you!
Truth shines
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October 31, 2012
Mrs Rea attended the charter rally, and then after some time left the school due to personal issues she had with some administrators.

She is bitter about not being popular at the school she wanted to be at.

Mrs Hall is rank an file NEA supported teacher in CCSD.
anonymous
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October 31, 2012
What do you want to bet that there is more to Christine Rea than that she is just "a parent of two former Charter Academy students"? I smell government school "educators" behind Rea. No one with any sense would pull there kids from a charter school...unless they are scared of their kids actually learning something.

The "educator" class is more concerned about keeping the government school money pit fully functioning and keeping parents/taxpayers in the dark on how much less it costs for a charter school to actually teach the kids something other than how to be a good government subject.
MelPlame
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October 31, 2012
Does anybody find it ... convenient...

She didn't file a complaint when she was a parent (which is when she SHOULD have been attentive to the board's activity.)

She didn't file it immediately after she left.

No, she decides (out of the blue) that RIGHT THIS MINUTE, the DAY OF THE ELECTION, they should file a complaint against the school.

This is a media ploy. Those opposing the amendment know they are slipping in public support and feel a loss coming on. They are grasping....

I am pretty sure the public is smarter than what she is giving them credit for.

anonymous
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October 31, 2012
Really - "No one with any sense would pull their (sic) kids from a charter school..."

A recent study released in Dec. 2010 by the Fordham Institute shows "seventy-two percent of the original low-performing charters remained in operation—and remained low-performing—five years later." They remained low performing in spite of their attempts to improve their performance.

Few charter schools perform better than their local counterparts. Most perform worse.

A sensible person should certainly pull their child from a charter school when the school does not perform and as is often the case.
Eleanor M
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November 01, 2012
MelPlame- read the story. the complaint follows specific dates of specific meetings where the violations occurred. the parent notified the Attorney General about violations that were in August and September, and she sent a letter October 8. Sorry to ruin your conspiracy theory, but it is actually pretty logical and easy to follow. Now, what is your thought on the actual issue: this board violating the law? Is it OK? Is it not OK?
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