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School board approves application for Montgomery charter schools proposal

Updated: Sep. 24, 2019 at 8:52 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Montgomery County Board of Education considered a proposal to convert some Montgomery Public School facilities into charter schools at Tuesday night’s meeting. The school board approved the application for the proposal.

The board approved the application in a 4-1 vote, with one member abstaining. This approval does not mean implementation of the charter schools has been approved. MPS Superintendent Ann Roy Moore said now the school system and the Montgomery Education Foundation, which presented the proposal, will negotiate a contract, and if that contract is approved, charter schools may be implemented.

“What needs to be understood is that the contract as such is much, much more detailed, and really much more explicit in what the charter would be required to execute and what kind of academic program they would put in, how they would manage their budgets, all of those things,” Moore said. “And they still would have to meet all of the state’s requirements, the same as any public school system.”

The state school board can also approve or deny the proposal, despite what the MCBOE decides.

[READ the full charter school application here]

MEF’s plan would convert Davis Elementary, Nixon Elementary and Bellingrath Middle School into charter schools. It would allow MPS to still own the facilities and employ personnel, but MEF would oversee day-to-day operations and curriculum. By law, there would be no changes to any zoning or student population.

Monday night, many members of the public voiced their concern about the conversion proposal, saying the plan targets historical black schools. Moore said the foundation selected the schools for the conversion proposal based on academics and other factors that put them at risk.

Tuesday night, parents had another chance to voice their opinion on the proposal. One parent, AJ Hays, said her family moved to Montgomery two years ago, and though she and her husband initially enrolled their children in private school, they decided to try public school. She said when they made the switch she saw disengagement from their children.

“[My son’s] scissors got stolen, his headphones got stolen,” she said. “If you ask him to this day about the school he was at, he’ll say, ‘I don’t like going there, my teachers told me to shut up.’”

Hays said she supports the charter school conversion proposal.

“I want to support public school,” she said. “And I don’t want to just support it with my finances or my time, I want to be engaged, I want to have my kids there.”

Pamela West, however, opposes the plan.

“I’m hoping that we are looking at the best interest of our children, putting them in the forefront of our minds,” she said.

West asked why MEF can’t partner with MPS and offer training for the teachers to see if their curriculum works in the existing schools. She also voiced concern about the school board overseeing the possible new system.

“My understanding is [the school board] will oversee the charter schools,” she said. “So in my mind if you’re having a slight problem overseeing the current school system then you’re adding another system on top of that, it looks like one of those areas is going to lack.”

Moore said MEF would have five years to prove the charter schools’ ability to help students increase their academic performance, should they be implemented in the city. MEF had originally proposed converting four facilities to charter schools but reworked the plan to include just three after the board considered and struck down the idea in February.

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