My last post was about University charter school on the campus of the University of West Alabama.  As I wrote about the methodical approach they took to building public support, about the $350,000 they had pledged to the school before they applied to the state for approval and about the success they have achieved so far, it was impossible not to compare this undertaking to the to the unmitigated mess that has taken place with Woodland Prep in Washington County.

There is simply no comparison.  One is daylight, the other is dark.

Nor could I take my mind off the fact that in the eyes of the state charter school commission, these two efforts are considered as equals.

So let’s make some comparisons:

The initial impetus for University charter came from the board of trustees of the University of West Alabama.  They challenged university president Ken Tucker to search out alternatives to a woeful local school system.  However, it was a completely different story with Woodland Prep where a wife sought revenge because her husband was dismissed from the county school system for inappropriate behavior.

There was not an outcry of parents upset with their local schools.  The county system was rated a B.  Of the seven schools in the system, three are graded as B, four are C.  There is not a private school in the county.  (There had been one years ago, but it went out of business.)

University charter had an existing building they could move into.  Woodland Prep did not.  They had to build one.  (Their application said this would be built on donated property.  But truth is, someone paid $92,000 for 12 acres, which my sources say is about double what it was worth.)

University charter had an abundance of education “infrastructure” at their disposal.  Woodland Prep had none.  Fact is that University charter is in one end of a building that houses the dean of UWA’s College of Education in the other end.  So University charter did not have to seek out someone to tell them what is needed to run a school..  But those trying to start Woodland Prep were totally in the dark as to what they needed to do.  They were just as dependent on outside “experts” as they would have been had they been trying to start a hospital.

(And the “expert” they hired, Soner Tarim of Sugarland, TX, is so suspect that the Texas state board of education turned him down in June when he wanted to open four charter schools in Austin.)

If there has been a groundswell of support for Woodland Prep, I haven’t been able to find it.  In fact, they have had trouble getting people to join their board and remain on it.  On the flip side of this coin, there has been a tremendous amount of opposition to this charter from the local community.  Some 200 people showed up in Chatom on April 29 at a community meeting in opposition to the charter, 60 people rode a charter bus to Montgomery on May 9 to attend a state school board meeting and meet with legislators and at least 100 locals stood on the courthouse house lawn on August 2 when AEA announced they were suing Woodland Prep’s board and Soner Tarim for fraud because of misinformation in the charter application submitted to the state.

This is in stark contrast to community response to University charter, where enrollment climbed by more than 100 students between the first year of operation and the current school year.

As to local fund-raising, if Woodland Prep has been successful, it is a closely-guarded secret.  In fact, one of the reasons the National Association of Charter School Authorizers said their application to open should be denied was their lack of demonstrated fund-raising capacity.

The NACSA says in its review: “…no information is provided about its fundraising track record.  This is a concern, as the applicant’s plans include raising $500,000 to launch the school and secure its facility.”

On the other hand, University charter had $350,000 when they applied to the state.

Daylight and dark.  Though some have tried to claim that since both Sumter County and Washington County are both very rural, these two situations should be viewed as comparable.  Such a claim is beyond bogus.

And again, how the state’s appointed state charter school commission can ignore the obvious and green light both of these applications is beyond comprehension.