Charter Academy enrollment tops 1,000
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
September 29, 2012 02:09 AM | 2131 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Cherokee Charter Academy now has enrollment topping 1,000.

The news was announced when the academy’s Local Governing Council met Wednesday to discuss replacement of two council members and the school’s financials for July and August.

Present at the meeting were council members Lyn Carden, Heather Blevins, Larry Blase and Principal Vanessa Suarez. Calling in via teleconference were board members Byron Greene, Danny Dukes, Vince Baker, as well as Charter Schools USA employees Hillary Daigle, Fernanda Guzman and Sandy Castro. Dr. Deborah Nauss, principal at Cape Coral Charter School in Fort Meyers, Fla., was also on the phone.

Suarez kicked off the meeting with the announcement that as of this past week, the charter school now has an enrollment of 1,007 students.

Since opening fall 2011, the school has budgeted for an enrollment of 995 students but did not meet that targeted number until this year.

For its first budget year, the school reported an overall deficit of $1.5 million due to miscalculations in funds they would receive from the state and earning less than anticipated in total revenues.

CCA was assisted in making up the deficit by a $975,000 corporate sponsorship from Charter Schools USA, the school’s management company.

The reported enrollment in the agenda on Wednesday was 985 for the month of August, but Blevins said the enrollment of 1,007 will be seen on next month’s report.

“We’re very, very excited about it,” Suarez said. “We have three more (students) starting on Monday.”

Suarez said more than 1,000 students enrolled in September, with 15 new enrollments in August and a wait list of 117 potential students. Another kindergarten class was added to accommodate 18 students, Suarez said, adding that the school gets a new middle school student “almost every day.”

The school reported 14 student withdrawals in August, with three citing they were moving out of the area, two citing transportation issues, one leaving for a discipline issue, three saying the school was not a good fit, two returning to homeschool and the parents of three students (all of the same family) saying they were not satisfied with the administration.

Suarez said the two students with transportation issues re-enrolled this week after a solution was determined.

Ten new staff members were hired for the school’s July 30 start date, Suarez said. A fifth-grade math teacher, who Suarez said was not a good fit for the school, was also replaced in August.

Suarez said there will be a school site visit by CSUSA staff on Friday.

Suarez also reported that the school acquired five new iPads and two new projectors for classroom use.

In other business, the council was presented the charter school’s July and August financials by Daigle, who said there was not much activity for the month of July as students began school at the end of that month.

The council unanimously approved both financial reports.

For July, the school reported 980 students enrolled but only received Quality Basic Education and state supplemental funding on 817 students. Per student, the school received $7,476 which is broken down into $3,883 under QBE and $3,593 from the state supplemental funds.

Total revenue for July was $571,668 from Title I revenue and food service revenue. The school also saw an increased fund balance for July of $176,086.

In August, the funding per student remained the same at $7,476. In total revenues, the school received $1,280,956, which is over $7,000 more than anticipated despite lower participation in the food program than budgeted.

This was due to an increase of almost $9,000 because of increased participation in the school’s before and aftercare program.

In expenses, the CSUSA budgeted teachers for Aug. 1, however the school began in July so the payroll expenses were about $49,731 higher. The school spent $516,710, which was $81,695 higher than budgeted.

“Something else we’re doing this year to really match expenses with the revenue is align 10-month wage accrual,” Daigle said. “What we’ve done in the past, is at the end of the year in June we’ve had a large expense for teachers paid for the summer so what we’re trying to do is smooth that out over the year.”

Daigle said there will be a variance in the budget each month this year because of that. Dukes said he agreed with the wage accrual plan, but would like to budget that way next year.

One larger-than-anticipated expense was the school’s electricity and water and sewer bills, which combined were about $14,000 over budget.

Daigle said CSUSA is looking into the matter and said neighboring Watermarke Church was supposed to put a meter in to measure its usage, but the school has not received any reimbursement from the church.

Suarez said she has received documentation of the bill but the church’s payment “hasn’t gone through.”

Through August, the school saw a positive fund balance of $159,045, which is $84,591 more than budgeted.

In other business, Blevins said the council is still looking for a community and/or business non-parent member to replace Jay Wright, who took a job out of the area.

The council is also looking to replace Carden, who is stepping down from her local role effective in January.

Carden said she was elected board chairwoman for the Georgia Charter Educational Foundation, the non-profit entity charged with the legal and financial obligations for both Cherokee Charter Academy and Coweta Charter Academy.

“That role requires quite a bit of supervision and I feel like it’s in the better interest of all involved if we have some new energy offered here at Cherokee,” Carden said. “It will allow for some new blood to come on the board. We have some phenomenal parents here and we could throw a spitball and identify a great parent board member.”

The council also discussed results from a staff survey taken at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

“The survey at the end of the year that was given to us last month showed numbers that we felt did not reflect the true culture, feeling of what was going on in the school because of when it was given at the end of last year,” Blevins said. “I think as you look at the new survey, you will see that our feelings were right.”

Blevins said she would head the search committee, which would also include Dukes and Green, and will make a recommendation by the Oct. 24 meeting with final approval of the new board member from the GCEF.

In other business, all 65 staff members were given the opportunity to complete an email survey regarding their overall satisfaction with the school, with 31 or 48 percent of staff completing it. Fifty-two staff members completed the end-of-year survey.

The survey asked questions about how staff members felt about workforce engagement and leadership. About 91 percent of survey responders agreed (with 27 percent strongly agreeing) that there is good workforce engagement, as opposed to 82 percent who agreed with that statement in the end-of-year survey.

In the leadership category, about 88 percent agreed (with 25 percent strongly agreeing) that there was a high-level of leadership at the school, compared to 59 percent in the end-of-year survey.

Moving forward, the school will have a mid-year and end-of-year survey as it did last year, Suarez said.

In other business, the council approved school policies in the students-parent handbook.

The council’s next meeting will be held Oct. 24 at 10 a.m. at Cherokee Charter Academy.

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