The Bibb County school board Thursday overwhelmingly voted in favor of two charter schools that could begin serving hundreds of Bibb County students next year.
The board voted 7-1 in favor of the Macon Charter Academy, which aims to teach International Baccalaureate curriculum to elementary school students at first. The board also voted 6-2 to support the charter petition of the Academy for Classical Education. Both schools plan to accept students from across Bibb County.
The Macon Charter Academy plans to start with 600 students and expand the school to offer the same International Baccalaureate curriculum to middle-school students. The schools biggest advocates, Charles and Monya Rutland, say they plan to tie into the existing IB program at Central High School, which is 20 years old.
Interim Superintendent Steve Smith, who helped plan that IB program, is a strong supporter of the Macon Charter Academy proposal. Several board members worried aloud about financial effects, whether the school could weaken other public schools, and whether the school would truly be available to serve all students.
Board member Lester Miller worried more charter school applications could create a snowball effect of financial and student population losses that would lead to more public school closures. But he said there was an academic reality that What weve been doing hasnt been working.
In the end, only board member Ella Carter, a former public school teacher and principal, voted in the work session and the formal vote against the Macon Charter Academy. Carter and Tom Hudson voted against the Academy for Classical Education on both opportunities.
Our problems are many, but if whatever we come up with does not address all students, I have a problem with it, Carter told reporters.
Board member Lynn Farmer said the Rutlands previously presented the only charter school petition approved by both the county school board and the state. Approval was removed only after the Rutlands left the proposal, and the management and curriculum had changed from what they had proposed, Farmer said.
The Academy for Classical Education proposes to offer works from some of the best minds of history -- Socrates and Plato to Lincoln, Churchill and Gandhi -- to educate students.
We want to create a school environment where teachers can teach and students can learn, and we offer no apologies for making this assertion, a school presentation says.
The school, whose backers include former Westside High School Principal Laura Perkins, plans to ultimately serve kindergarten through 12th grade, with about 1,460 students. Plans are to open next fall with 760 students. Perkins would serve as the principal.
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert spoke at a public comment period, urging the board to carefully consider charter schools, which he said could improve parental involvement and possibly provide greater accountability.
Separately, the board recognized Jane Drennan, deputy superintendent of teaching and learning, who is leaving to work with a charter school in Ohio, where her family is from. Drennan has worked in the Bibb County school system for more than two years. Board members and Smith credited her with getting the school system through a reaccreditation process and raising test scores.
Smith told reporters he hopes to have a replacement for Drennan by Nov. 1.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.