State charter school group in Macon for meeting Monday

hgoodridge@macon.comApril 22, 2013 

The Georgia Charter Schools Association held a public meeting on charter schools Monday night.

The meeting at Lundy Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, 2081 Forest Hill Road, Macon, was attended by about 15 people.

Andrew Lewis, executive vice president of the association, said that since the passage of the Georgia Charter Schools Amendment in November, the association concluded it needed to do a better job reaching out to communities outside the Atlanta area.

At least six letters of intent have been filed with the state from Bibb County groups that want to open a charter school in 2014.

“Given the history in Bibb County that has not had a lot of charter activity, six is a significant number,” Lewis said, cautioning that a letter of intent is a long way from actually opening a charter school.

A letter of intent “is as close to opening a charter school as an application to law school is to practicing law,” he said.

“Opening and running a charter school is not for the faint of heart. The folks participating on the governing board have a great deal of responsibility.”

Monday’s meeting was designed to give the community more insight into charter schools.

Helen Epps, a former media specialist in Bibb County schools, said she attended the meeting because of her grandchild. “I’m hearing about charter schools and I’m interested in seeing what charter schools offer and compare with other public schools,” she said.

“There are certainly a number of individuals reaching out to the state saying there are a number of (charter) school options in Atlanta (area) but not us. Why not our community?” Lewis said. “That’s why we’re in Macon.”

Lewis said it’s only recently that the state’s charter sector has seen this amount of interest in alternative public school options outside of the Atlanta area.

Lewis said his office is obligated to help communities with charter school options if there is community interest, need, and demand.

Lewis gave a presentation on Bibb County School statistics, including graduation rates and the number of students who live in poverty.

Lewis brought Gavin Samms, principal of Fulton Leadership Academy, an all boys school in Fulton County, to Monday’s meeting to give a presentation on his school that opened in 2009.

Samms said the school started because there was a crisis in “what’s going on with young boys.”

He presented a number of statistics, including 32 percent of black males will serve time in jail in their lifetime and 72 percent of black children are being raised in single family households.

“Yes, we care about test scores, but we’re dealing with different issues,” Lewis told the group.

“There’s no way to ignore issues of home life and other issues students are dealing with.”

A second public meeting is scheduled at the church from 5-9 p.m. Saturday, but that date is flexible.

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