Montgomery's first charter school gets approval

Montgomery's first charter school gets approval
Montgomery's first charter school application has been approved (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The old Montgomery Chamber of Commerce incubator building (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The old Montgomery Chamber of Commerce incubator building (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The old Montgomery Chamber of Commerce incubator building (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The old Montgomery Chamber of Commerce incubator building (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It's the first for Montgomery and it has the potential to affect hundreds of school children. Monday, the Alabama Public Charter School Commission approved the city's first charter school start-up in a 5 to 1 vote.

Charlotte Meadows couldn't be more pleased.

"I don't think you can overstate how much of a game-changer this is," Meadows, Board Chair of Lead Academy and driving force behind the school, explained.

She says the name of the new charter school will likely be Lead Academy but another name may be added to it.

The goal now is to work out a deal with the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce on the Small Business Incubator on South Court Street. Chamber leaders confirmed the 44,000 square foot building is for sale. Negotiations are underway.

"We'll be able to take 96 kindergartners, 72 first graders and 48 second, third and fourth graders," Meadows said. And if they're overwhelmed with applications, they will implement a lottery system.

A charter school is a public school, funded by the state with the freedom to target specific educational goals. In this case, changing the culture, the mindset from unbelief to confidence.

"So if parents have any children in that age group and want to give us consideration, we'd be happy to talk to them," said Montgomery City Council and Lead Academy board member William Green.

"This is new in Alabama," said Alabama Public Charter School Commission Chairman Mac Buttram.

So new, in fact, there is only one other charter start-up and that's in Mobile. Buttram feels good about the potential of what Meadows' team will do.

"One of the reasons charter schools fail is due to finances, but they have a lot of resources in the community," Buttram explained.

"We understand it's a big responsibility," Meadows, a former MPS board member, added.

And part of that big responsibility is getting the school ready to open this fall, assuming a deal is worked out with the chamber. Meadows acknowledged that if the deal falls through with the chamber, the opening of the Lead Academy will likely be delayed until the fall of 2019, since the board would need to look for a new site.

The commission's approval of the first charter school comes three days after State Interim Superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson made drastic cuts in the Montgomery School District. The entire school system is under state intervention.

While the charter school approval is not connected to the intervention, Meadows made it clear there is no more time to waste to in educating Montgomery's school children.

"We have to act now," she said.

Lead Academy leaders would need to hire a principal this week, start registration for students in March and then hire teachers.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.