Controversial charter proposal up for review

Russ Moore with Seamless Education Associates Inc. / Jessica Fairley

Parents and community members are heated over a proposal to turn Albany High School into a charter school. The proposal is set to be reviewed by the Dougherty County Board of Education on Wednesday.

Before making the vote to send the issue to the board of education, those who sit on the committee for the Albany College and Career Academy brought questions and concerns from community members back to their consultant.

At the top of the list: people wanted to know why Albany High?

"Not only is Albany High School declining in population but it has the smallest population of all schools. So making a change to repurpose it will impact fewer students than any other high school," says Russ Moore, CEO for Seamless Education Associates Inc.

He says Albany High School is also centrally located, which would make the school easily accessible for other schools to use.

If converted into a charter school, all Dougherty County students would have the opportunity to funnel into the facility, learning jobs skills and gaining college experience. The plan is all part of an effort to boost Dougherty County graduation rates.

"We're graduating 54 percent of our children. That's not high enough. That's something that we have to be concerned about. That's something we've got to correct," says Bobby McKinney, Albany College and Career Academy Committee Chairman.

It's proposed that the plan will go into effect in the fall of 2013. All students who currently attend Albany High would still graduate from Albany High. Incoming freshman in the fall of 2013 will be the first to graduate from the charter school.

Although the plan is set to take five years to fully implement, consultants expect to see a growth in graduation rates within the first year.

Within five years the graduation rate from Albany High is expected to grow from 54 percent to 70 percent. Dougherty High will grow from 49 percent to 64 percent. Monroe High's graduation rate is projected to increase from 47 percent to 61 percent and Westover High will grow from 65 percent to 85 percent.

Russ Moore says with or without the charter school, the Dougherty County School System will face changes.

"Fewer people graduate every year than the year before and just the overall enrollment in all the high schools. If you take a district look at it, it would be hard in some period of time to sustain four high schools," says Russ Moore.

He says Dougherty County risks losing a high school in the future if no changes are made and at least by starting a charter school, it will work with the education system instead of against it.

"It's an opportunity for us to reach out to children who might drop out of school because they don't see the relevancy of school. This is our opportunity to make a difference in the Dougherty County School System," says Carol Tharin, Dougherty County School Board member.

The Albany College and Career Academy Committee voted unanimously to send the proposal before the board. Their request is that the board considers Albany High School for the charter school, that the governing board be a majority of area business leaders, and that a decision be made swiftly because the issue has to be presented to the state by August 1st.

Consultants who've worked on the proposal state that at any time board of education members have the authority to alter the proposal. Nothing is final until they make an approval.

The charter school proposal will go before the Dougherty County Board of Education on Wednesday at 12:00 noon.

The public is invited and encouraged to attend the Wednesday meeting.

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