Q&A with Roy Lewis

July 24, 2013 

City of Residence: Byron

Occupation: Engineer, Windstream Communications; chairman of the Byron Peach Charter School Association

QUESTION: At what stage are you establishing a charter high school in Byron?

ANSWER: Kind of a waiting mode as well as planning for our future school year. The Peach County school board will decide at a session July 30 at 6 p.m. at the board offices if they’re going to approve our application.

QUESTION: Outline the overall process you’re going through.

ANSWER: By February we had to submit a letter of intent for the charter school to the local and state boards of education then until June 1 to submit an application. The local school board has 60 days to approve it, deny it or refer it back for more information. Sixty days ends at the end of this month.

There was also a June 14 deadline to apply to the state charter commission. It’s a little different but basically the same. They won’t act on the application unless the local board denies it.

QUESTION: What happens if approved or if denied?

ANSWER: In the event we’re approved, it will go on to the state board of education for approval. If denied, it’s taken up by the state’s charter school association for approval there.

QUESTION: What would be the difference?

ANSWER: The major difference is if it goes to the state’s charter school association, you only get state dollars to run the school. If approved locally, you get state and local county school dollars. We really do like the idea of being a local partner rather than being a competitor. We have the same goals as the local school system to see the best for students. We could form a strong partnership and support each other in many ways.

QUESTION: To be clear, will this be a public or private school?

ANSWER: Public. There are misconceptions about that. We will be a public institution and potentially serve any student. We won’t charge tuition or screen entrance by test scores. It’s open to everybody. We won’t pick and choose students. We’re going to take everybody who wants to be here.

QUESTION: But there are space limitations. How do you deal with that?

ANSWER: Students who apply will be selected equally by lottery performed by an agency other than the board of the charter school. The first year we intend to have 75 ninth-grade students and 75 10th-graders and grow from there, adding a grade level each year.

QUESTION: When do you hope to open?

ANSWER: The 2014-15 school year.

QUESTION: What has community reaction been?

ANSWER: I’d say overwhelmingly positive and supportive. There’s been some negative feedback, some people relate this back to segregation, but that’s not what this is about. People get mixed up but it’s open to all students, not one particular group. Most people with children are encouraged about having a choice. We have about 240 letters of support from students and parents interested in applying. We hope to be able to start taking applications in December.

QUESTION: So briefly, why do you want the school?

ANSWER: We think there’s a strong need. Looking at student achievement in Peach County, we’re in the bottom 25 percent in SAT scores in Georgia and Georgia ranks 48 nationally. We don’t stack up well against the state or nation. We’re nearly at bottom in almost every category. We complete here for drawing jobs and industry and next to location education is probably most important. The charter school will be strictly college preparatory focused whether kids go on to college or to vocational training or to work. But they will be well-prepared for any challenge. We want all to have that chance, that choice. It’s all about the students and the future.

QUESTION: Next step?

ANSWER: We’ll respond following the board’s decision on the 30th. But we’re also working on formalizing plans for the school year. We’re working on student-teacher handbooks, looking at potential grants for the school, just getting our ducks in a row.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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