MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Education confirmed Dr. Ed Richardson gave conditional approval for the Montgomery Education Foundation's charter school plan before his term ended as Interim State Superintendent of Education.
The five-year plan targets Sidney Lanier High School and the schools that feed into it: E.D. Nixon Elementary, Davis Elementary and Bellingrath Middle School. The original plan also included Floyd Elementary School, but MPS closed Floyd after the most recent school year as part of the state intervention plan to cut costs.
Richardson sent a letter to Montgomery Education Foundation President Ann Sikes stating MEF needed to provide additional details to move forward with the process.
"We're hard at work just like we have been since we first started the process," Sikes said. "It's complex, and it's going to require a lot of fleshing out a lot of the details to make sure we don't leave anything up to guess."
Sikes said some of the additional information MEF must provide includes details about the high school plan, which she said wouldn't come into play until five years out from the initiation of the plan, which she hopes will be in fall of 2019. She said nearly a dozen people, between her staff and the board of directors for MEF, are working on the areas that need to be completed in order for the application to be approved. She said her goal is to create a culture and expectation of excellence in an already-existing school community.
However, Sikes said she is aware of skepticism from some people in the community. She said she and her staff are prepared to respond.
"Change and the unknown are hard for anybody," Sike said. "Something we've had to invest in is saying, 'Come, and watch.' The respect for what we're doing has to be earned. We are not asking that it be given to us unquestioned."
Tislam Ellis, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, said he is strongly opposed to bringing the plan into MPS.
"I believe in supporting what we already have in place," Ellis said. "I do believe we can get back on track with being academically clear. We just need the resources and support."
Ellis said he attended a community meeting held by MEF at Lanier to discuss the proposed plan.
"We asked specific questions about curriculum," Ellis said. "Unfortunately, the Montgomery Education Foundation was not able to assist us with an appropriate answer."
Ellis said even if MEF is able to provide clear plans for a curriculum, he would want to know how the group plans to implement it.
MEF has until Aug. 31 to return an updated plan to the state department of education. Once it's in, the department will seek outside review and State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey will make a final determination on the plan based on that review.
Typically, under the state's public charter school law, a conversion plan would have to be approved by the local board of education. However, under the state's intervention law, the state superintendent is able to make decisions like this one on the board's behalf.