With up to 11 new charter schools possibly coming to Durham County in the next two years, the school board wants to improve cooperation between charter schools and traditional public schools.
The board endorsed a vision statement last week calling for “quality schools for all children.”
The state Department of Public Instruction’s deadline for letters of intent to form new charter schools was Jan. 4. It received 11 letters showing interest in new Durham charter schools, including a statewide virtual academy.
That would double the number of charter schools in a district already facing enrollment declines. The number of students in the Durham Public Schools has dropped from 32,749 in the 2007-08 school year to 32,440 this year, or about 1 percent, despite the county gaining population during that time, according to the DPS website.
“This is a pretty big deal that charters and traditional public schools are trying to cooperate,” said Heidi Carter, chairwoman of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education.
It is important for charter schools to share in educating students of all social and economic backgrounds, Carter said.
“Our Vision,” the statement reads in part, “incorporates a culture of cooperation, transparency, accountability, and collegiality in the management of public education rather than one of competition and division.
“We envision a climate of reciprocal trust in which we celebrate each other’s successes,” it continues. “All Durham’s public schools – whether they be traditional public schools or charter public schools – will operate as elements of a fair and efficient system with multiple parts interacting and working together toward our common goals, under local accountability for student success.”
The next step, Carter said, would be a charter schools compact that could include a limit on new charter schools in Durham County.Working together
Carl Forsyth, managing director of Voyager Academy, a Durham charter school, said it’s important for those who support public education to cooperate because some do not believe in traditional public education.
“We need to put aside our differences and figure out ways to work together,” Forsyth said.
Voyager has signed onto the common vision, along with Central Park, Maureen Joy, Kestrel Heights and Global Scholars.
Forsyth recommended a moratorium on new charter schools for Durham after a report last year by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools showed the county ranks 22nd out of all the counties in the nation in public charter school market share.
State Rep. Paul Luebke a Democrat representing Durham County, introduced a bill two years ago that would have put capped charter schools on a percentage of the county’s traditional public schools, but the measure didn’t make it out of committee.
The state Board of Education received 63 applications for public charter schools last year after lifting a statewide cap on charters.Letters of intent
The letters of intent that the state received were from
• Antonio Academy
• Excelsior Classical Academy
• Idlewild Academy of Business
• Arts and Technology
• Southpoint Academy
• Triangle Military Academy
• Pinnacle Charter School
• Paul Robeson Academic Academy
• LEAP Academy
• Daniyel and Children’s Learning Academy
• North Carolina Connections Academy, the virtual school.
There were two letters of intent for Orange County schools: ABLE and The Expedition School.
Wake could get 14 more charter schools: Challenger Charter School, Columbia Academy, Dynamic Community Charter School, Envision Science Academy, Global Academy Charter School, Paul Robeson Academic Academy, PREP 360, ROSEBUD Academy, SMART Academy, Southwest Preparatory Academy, The Dr. Wavie and Minnie Alston Thinkers Academy, The Platinum School, Wake Forest Charter Academy and Wisdom Academy.
Chatham County could add ABLE and New Hope Charter School. Granville County could get Granville Magnet Charter School and Liberty Academy.
Filing a letter of intent is not the same as filing an application. Applications are due in March and then potential school founders face an interview process.