Georgia Charter Educational Foundation Chairwoman Lyn Carden announced Thursday that the school will be petitioning the state for the addition of a high school.
Carden, who made the announcement following a teleconference meeting, gave little detail on the high school plans, including where the proposed facility would be located.
“We are working out the details right now,” Carden said.
The information came after the seven-member Board of Directors voted to approve the “expansion” of Cherokee Charter Academy as well as both renewal petition applications for Cherokee Charter Academy and Coweta Charter Academy, provided all changes requested by board members are included.
Carden said Cherokee Charter Academy is in the final stages of applying to the state special schools division of the Georgia Department of Education for a five-year charter. The deadline is Nov. 1 and the school will know if its charter is renewed by February, Carden said.
“The final draft is in process and being reviewed,” Carden said at the previous day’s local governing council meeting at the school. “It will be on time to the Department of Education.”
Carden said the school will be notified of the status of the application and subsequently be notified of when the school’s panel interview will be.
According to the state department’s website, the panel will include GaDOE representatives and at least one outside charter expert. Many renewal applicants will also be selected for a site visit from Charter Schools Division personnel and are notified 48 hours in advance.
The statewide Nov. 6 vote on the constitutional amendment to reauthorize the state charter schools commission could change which entity the school will re-apply to in the future, but the school is still subject to its current chartering authority despite the outcome of the amendment vote.
Carden reminded board members of the upcoming vote during the meeting.
“It’s going to be close,” Carden said. “Tell all of your family and friends I strongly encourage them to vote with their hearts.”
The school is facing a charter renewal after its first two years because it was granted a charter by the state Board of Education after a May 2011 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court declared the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, the board that originally approved its charter, unconstitutional.
The charter grant from the state followed a third denial in two years from Cherokee County Board of Education.
Also during Thursday’s GCEF meeting, the board voted 7-0 to appoint Danny Dukes, who now serves as treasurer, as its certified financial officer. Carden said the role is not a paid position.
The board also unanimously approved voting by a simple majority rather than absentee or by proxy as discussed at the previous meeting.
Judith Brown, financial analyst for CSUSA, presented the financials that were also approved by Cherokee Charter’s LGC on Wednesday. Brown said the school is seeing “slight (budget) unfavorability” due to timing, but anticipates realizing missed revenue by the end of the year.
The school’s expenses were higher than budgeted for the month of September by almost $67,000, but Brown said this was due to accrued wages that should be spread over 10 months. Total expenses were $877,618 while only $810,830 was budgeted.
The school paid almost $9,000 more than budgeted last month in water and sewer fees because of the additional use by Watermarke Church that had been identified at last month’s meeting. Carden said the church has installed a meter and Charter Schools USA is in the process of sending an invoice for the fees.
“It’s going to come in the 10 to 11,000 range, from my understanding,” Carden said.
Total revenues were also $26,268 lower than expected but only off by about 1 percent, with a lower participation rate than expected in food services but a higher participation rate in before and after care. The school saw almost $1.95 million in total revenues.
Board member Bob Young asked what the line item “professional services – fees” entailed, as it was a “growing item” that contains no budgeted funds. The line item amounted to $13,725 in the month of September.
Carden said that includes strategic planning and board development.
“That information wasn’t communicated at that time when the budget was being formulated, unfortunately,” Brown said.
Overall, the school’s annual forecast of $118,998 is $25,888 short, but the change in fund balance over the last month is up by $30,324 at $199,642.
“There are a number of months to go between now and end of the year that will be slightly unfavorable to budget,” Brown said.
At Wednesday’s LGC meeting, Principal Vanessa Suarez advised council members that for the month of September 1,005 students were enrolled with 99 percent of students in attendance, which tops the school’s budgeted enrollment of 995. Of the 1,005 enrolled, 19 are new students and 127 potential students are on the wait list.
Six students withdrew in September, with two citing transportation issues, one indicating the school is not a good fit and three returning to home school.
Suarez said a fifth-grade math teacher was deemed not a good fit in September and has since been replaced.
Council Chairwoman Heather Blevins said she is also still in the process of identifying two new board members, one from the community and one parent board member to replace Carden, as she has decided to step down from the role effective Jan. 1 but will maintain her role as chair on the GCEF Board of Directors.
The LGC will hold its last meeting of the year Nov. 28 at 10 a.m. at Cherokee Charter Academy. The next GCEF meeting will be held via teleconference Nov. 29 at 10 a.m.