From the moment I first heard about the charter school ruckus in Washington County, I wondered why Eric Mackey, state superintendent, was not looking into the situation.
I was told that neither the state school board, nor Mackey, has jurisdiction over the charter commission. However, I am not convinced this is the case.
Page 25, line 18 of the charter law as passed in 2015 says: the department shall oversee the performance and effectiveness of all authorizers established under this act. The law defines “department” as the state department of education.
And “authorizer” is defined as: an entity authorized under this act to review applications, approve or reject applications, enter into charter contracts with applicants, oversee public charter schools, and decide whether to renew, not renew, or revoke charter contracts.”
I asked a longtime friend and attorney, with experience working with school boards, to interpret this for me. Her reply: You don’ have to have legal training to know what this says.”
Even more, the contract between Woodland Prep in Washington County and the charter commission states: The School shall be subject to the supervision of the State Superintendent and the State Board of Education, including accountability measures, to the same extent as non-charter public schools, except as otherwise expressly provided by law.
But if the state superintendent is investigating, I am unaware of it. However, I do know that The Washington Post is working on an article about Washington County and Eric Mackey would not talk to their reporter.
This entire episode is cloaked in secrecy, falsified information, missed deadlines, silence and suspicion. So when the superintendent will not answer questions from the media, suspicions only mount.
The charter commission and the state department continue to say that there are 900 students in Washington County attending private schools. But no one in Washington County believes this, nor do I. There are no private schools in the county. (At one time there was one at McIntosh, but it closed.) The closest private school option to the south end of the county is a private school in Saraland. But since it is 32 miles from McIntosh to Saraland and private school students must provide their own transportation, it is unlikely many–if any–would choose this school.
That leaves Jackson Academy in Clarke County and South Choctaw Academy in Choctaw County as the only viable options. Info from their web sites tells us that COMBINED, they only have a maximum of 550 students.
No one at the state department will respond to my inquiries as to where they get number of 900 students.
The charter commission met on May 14, 2018 to consider charter applications for Eugene Edwards Technology Charter in Bessemer; LEAD Academy in Mo0ntgomery and Woodland Prep in Washington county. All three applications were reviewed by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers in Chicago. The recommendation from NACSA was to deny each of them..
Eugene Edwards was not approved by the charter school commission. However, both LEAD Academy and Woodland Prep were. One has to wonder if the fact that both have management contracts with Sonier Tarim of Texas. the controversial Muslim with ties to the Gulen charter movement, played any part in these decisions.
Certainly questions need to be asked. So why isn’t the one person whose responsibility is to look out for the 722,000 students in our public schools, asking them?