Charter Schools Review Board denies Heritage Collegiate’s request to reconsider application
Ruling comes a day after board approves application for school in Union County managed by large charter operator
The head of a state program designed to improve access to charter schools told the state Charter Schools Review Board this week that her program has met most of its annual goals. Photo: Getty Images
The state’s new Charter Schools Review Board on Wednesday sided with a State Board of Education decision to deny Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy a charter to operate a school in Wake County.
The review board’s unanimous vote to let the state board’s ruling stand was a stark contrast to the former Charter School Advisory Board’s decision. Last December, the now-defunct advisory board voted to recommend that the state board approve Heritage Collegiate’s charter application. The earlier recommendation was nearly unanimous.
Bazemore told the review board to prepare for a legal fight.
“I would like to give this [Review] board notice that I will be contacting the U.S. Department of Education next,” Bazemore said. “This is so unfair.”
Several review board members who ruled against Heritage Collegiate had also served on the advisory board that had previously given its application and school leader Kashi Bazemore high marks.
“I’ve seen a different board, I’ve seen a different leader,” Dave Machado, a Charter School Advisory Board member said in December. “We need to take into consideration mistakes in the past, but I don’t think they ought to be penalized when there’s a path to run a better school this time.”
However, the State Board of Education did not follow the advisory board’s recommendation and rejected Heritage Collegiate’s application earlier this year, citing concerns about Bazemore’s previous leadership of a charter school in Bertie County. In that case, state investigators found fiscal and governance concerns, and Bazemore relinquished her control of the school.
Under a new state law, Bazemore could appeal the state board’s decision to the newly formed Charter Schools Review Board.
Bazemore told the review board on Wednesday that the state board made the decision to deny Heritage Collegiate a charter without having all of the facts and without giving her a chance to respond to charges that she mismanaged the Bertie County charter school.
It was clear on Wednesday, however, that the new review board had concerns about Heritage Collegiate.
Review board member Bartley Danielsen, one of the former advisory board members that recommended charter approval, said he’s no longer confident that the Heritage Collegiate board can effectively run a school.
“I think the first time I saw this [application] I was persuaded by the need [for the school] and by [Bazemore’s] experience but the experience I’ve learned to suspect was not everything I thought it was initially, so I would be inclined to vote no this time although I’ve voted yes in the past,” Danielsen said.
The K-8 charter school Bazemore planned for northeastern and eastern Wake County would have enrolled primarily Black and Latinx students, whom she contends are not adequately served by the Wake County Public School System.
Review board chairman Bruce Friend said that he doesn’t know what to believe about what happened in Bertie County. But, he said, he does know that former state board member Amy White, an outspoken critic of Bazemore’s, is a person of “great integrity” and that Bazemore is “passionate” about wanting to provide a school for students she believes are underserved.
“Both of those things can be true,” Friend said.
Bazemore, who earned a doctorate degree at N.C. State University and law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, said that she is qualified to lead a school.
“Every time I listened to people describe me as a person that is incapable, I honestly have to fight back tears, because I’m just not passionate, I’m capable,” she said. “And I’m just not capable, I’m highly capable and I’m just not qualified, I’m highly qualified.”
The review board’s decision to deny Heritage Collegiate’s request to reconsider the state board’s charter denial comes a day after it approved a charter for American Leadership Academy Monroe (ALA Monroe), a charter school planned for Union County that will be managed by Charter One.
The review board approved the ALA Monroe charter despite the state board’s concerns about a potential conflict of interest: ALA Monroe’s board Chairman Mitchell Schwab was formerly employed by Charter One, which has been hired by the school’s Board of Directors to manage the school. State board members also questioned the academic performance of the five Charter One-managed schools in North Carolina and the management contract between Charter One and the ALA Monroe board.
Charter One is a for-profit charter management firm based in Mesa, Arizona. Its founder, Glenn Way, has been heavily scrutinized for his business dealings. The Arizona Republic reported in 2021 that businesses owned by or tied to Way made as much a $37 million in no-bid deals by using Way’s company to build charter schools, then leasing or selling the properties to schools he manages.
Both ALA and Heritage Collegiate asked the review board to reconsider their charter applications under new rules established under House Bill 618. The law gives the review board many of the state board’s charter school oversight responsibilities. It has the power to grant, amend, terminate and renew charter applications.
The former advisory board had limited powers. It only made recommendations to the state board, and didn’t have the authority to approve, terminate, amend or renew charters. The new law allows charter applicants to request that the Review Board reconsider state board decisions made after July 1, 2022, in cases where they contradicted the advisory panel’s recommendations.
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