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Concern Mounts Over Cherokee Charter

The start of the school year is 19 days away. So why haven't parents heard anything from organizers of the county's first charter school?

After a nearly derailed its opening, communication from Cherokee Charter Academy flowed at a steady pace.

There were letters that encouraged supporters to write to their local school officials. There were letters that invited them to a "Save our School" rally at . And there were letters that asked them to wear red at a as a symbol of solidarity.

But after that emotional meeting, where board members , the letters stopped coming.

Even though the , there have been no new updates to the school's website, no parent informational sessions, no anything.

With school set to begin in 19 days, parents of the 995 students picked to attend the school during a May lottery are worried and angry.

Their calls, emails and pleas for information via Cherokee Charter Academy's Facebook page have yielded no response.

"I feel so snubbed," Neisha Handley wrote on the school's Facebook page on Tuesday. "I was publicly mocked by the BOE for what I said on the news and in my speech, I was booed by a room full of 800+ teachers and now I get the silent treatment from the very school I stuck my neck out for?"

Lyn Michaels-Carden, one of the local organizers of Cherokee Charter Academy, said there's a reason communication has slowed.

The school doesn't have the $2.9 million in local funding it would have received as a district-approved or state-commissioned charter school. State-chartered special schools, the designation the state BOE gave to Cherokee Charter Academy and eight other , aren't eligible for it and have to find alternate funding sources.

"Part of the problem has been a lot of things are completely out of our control at this point and we don't really have much to tell," Michaels-Carden said in an interview with Canton-Sixes Patch on Tuesday night.

She said Cherokee Charter Academy has "some very promising funding streams" that she can't disclose because she doesn't "have a check in hand."

She also said a deadline to have funding in place is coming up, but declined to give the specific date because it was part of a Georgia Charter Educational Foundation board meeting discussion. The foundation is the body that governs Cherokee Charter Academy.

"If we get to that soft target and we don't have the funding," Michaels-Carden said, "then we have to evaluate what our next move is going to be, whether it is to defer or to delay or to wait (to open) until the situations that are outside of our control get resolved."

She said the school is not trying to be evasive with parents.

"Right now," Michaels-Carden said, "all we can send them is, 'We're working on it,' which is basically what they've been told so far.

"I assure you as soon as we have information and not just more of, 'We don't know what to tell you,' our parents will absolutely be informed. Immediately."

Parents like Handley said it's just "common courtesy" to respond to calls and emails.

"My husband has been out of work for a year now," her Facebook post continued. "We need to plan ahead to be able to buy uniforms and supplies, and coordinate with other parents for carpooling.! UGH!

"The sad part is so many that fought for this are now looking into other alternatives since CCA has not been responding to calls or emails. It would be a shame for so many to fight and come this far, for the morale to fizzle and the school with it."

WHAT OTHER SUPPORTERS ARE SAYING ON FACEBOOK

Tuesday, Mary Brady: I want to say I haven't given up, I know it's only weeks away until school starts but the feeling I got when I went to the lottery and walked into the school tells me this will be a great school.

Tuesday, Neisha Handley: Dear CCA, You are quickly losing the morale of your parents by your lack of communication!!!! Everyday the parents online are beginning to question your organization and it's communication deficiencies. Many of us have called and emailed with NO RESPONSE!! PLEASE tell me we didn't just fight, and put our necks out there for this school only to be treated this way. It's common courtesy...answer the phone calls, respond to the emails.

Tuesday, Korie Price Schmidt: I finally received a response from the Governor today, but it was in essence a pledge of support without any substance. All I want is a definitive answer. That is all we all want.

Monday, Korie Price Schmidt: I know the decision is to be this week from the Governor's office, but is there a deadline..say by Friday? We are desperate for an update. It is CCA for us or moving to a better district inside Cherokee.

July 6, Kelly Spinks Ware: Just updating news from CCA on hiring: My sister was contacted Friday to say she was still in the running for a position, however they do not know when they might get to begin interviews.The HR dept rep told her they had to "settle everything" before they can even think of hiring any staff and they they are still trying to determine IF the school can even open by August 1st.

June 29, Grace Pfohl: Will there be a meeting with information for the parents and students before school starts?

SejonSD July 13, 2011 at 03:39 PM
With just 19 days remaining until the beginning of the school year, I don't believe its feasible to still be in a "wait and see" mode when it comes to my child's education. Classes are being formed at CCSD schools and it would be irresponsible to leave my child in limbo until the last minute. I am sure the CCA governance board is doing all it can to locate funds necessary to open in August, but sometimes it's just time to drop back and rethink how a last minute "sorry we couldn't come up with enought money to open" could affect 995 students. In my opinion, it is better to delay the opening of a strategically and logistically sound school than to open a school that fails to live up to the expectations of the parents/students involved. At this point, not having your child enrolled in a "regular" CCSD school is like quitting your job before you know whether you are being hired for the one you interviewed for in May. Good Luck!!
Waldo July 13, 2011 at 05:49 PM
If I were a betting man, I'd wager that there is no way that CCA will open Aug 1... Basically the school still needs to... (1) Interview, vet & hire all the teachers, administrators & other school staff (2) Physically prepare the building (not sure what, if anything, was left behind by AHA) (3) Set lesson plans, class schedules, activities, etc. (4) Procure books, technology, etc. (5) Other miscellaneous actions that I certainly did not think of... The complete lack of communication from CCA since the School Board vote does not exactly inspire a great deal of confidence. I feel bad for the 995 kids and their families - we're 19 days out from the first day of school and they still do not know where they will be Aug 1. The responsible thing for CCA to do would be to delay opening until 2012 (if they end up opening at all).

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