Community gives positive and negative feedback to potential charter school

Published 9:12 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Administration and board members of the Pataula Charter Academy spoke to a packed room of parents and interested community members about potentially opening a school in Decatur County Tuesday night at the Kirbo Center.

The meeting was intended to share information about PCA and its education model while gauging community interest through a Q&A session. Opinions and comments ranged from vehemently against the school coming to the region to supportive of the option for another choice.

A charter school is an independent school that receives government funding but operates outside of an established school system via a contract with the state. The contract dictates the charter school’s expectations and how success is measured. If those criteria aren’t met, the charter can be revoked.

Email newsletter signup

PCA, located in Edison, Georgia, is a K-12 charter school that operates under its own board. Admission into the school is determined by a lottery system, with preference given to school administration, staff and board members. It maintains that it is a public school, according to its website.

Kylie Holley, superintendent at PCA, said the reason her school is considering replicating its model in Decatur, Miller or Seminole counties is because the passion for chartering she and others involved with the school have and her desire to help other parents realize a new choice for their children’s education.

“We don’t believe there is such a thing as a one-size fits all school,” said Holley. “Our school does not fit everyone. There are children who can’t handle our model of organized chaos and constant projects and constant coordination and cooperation with one another.”

Decatur County Superintendent Tim Cochran expressed his opposition to PCA, calling the school “divisive”.

“It’s not a true public school, because if you want to compare apples to apples, you have to take free enrollment like a public school, too,” Cochran said. “Decatur County has a 91 percent graduation rate. We take every kid that comes in the door. We are 94 percent free and reduced lunch. Pataula has a 92 percent graduation rate. We’ll take that all day long when we look at the poverty that you guys have compared to us.”

Cochran and others in attendance also brought up how PCA has specific drop-off and pick-up zones for its buses, leading to questions about how students were expected to get to those zones if they didn’t have transportation. Holley said PCA did not receive transportation funds from the state and did not have the money to go door-to-door.

Other questions ranged from how the lottery system works, where potential students’ names are drawn during a public event, to the diversity within the school and on the board, which is not as diverse as Holley would like, but she said she and the administration are actively working to improve that.

PCA has tentative plans to open a new school in Decatur, Miller or Seminole counties by Fall 2019 offering K-5 education. Throughout the 2018-19 school year, Holley said PCA will train an administrator to lead the new school when it opens. A location for the new school has not been decided yet.