The Pulse

State Board of Education rejects proposed Wake County charter school a second time

By: - March 2, 2023 5:30 pm

For the second time in as many months, the State Board of Education unanimously rejected a charter school application for Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy (HCLA) in Wake County.

Thursday’s rejection is likely the final time the state board will consider the application unless the applicant successfully challenges the decision in court.

There was no debate among board members.

Earlier, Amy White,  a co-chair of the Education Innovation and Charter Schools Committee, restated concerns about the school’s presumed leader, Kashi Bazemore, who led a school by the same name in Bertie County before it was assumed by another charter operator.

Under Bazemore’s leadership, she reminded the state board, the school had a history of low-performance, failure to comply with fiscal requirements, failure to have enough certified teachers on campus, failure to have the required number of members on the governing board, and federal violations in the exceptional children program.

Here’s what White said about Bazemore on Wednesday:

“During her time as executive director of HCLA-Bertie [from] fall of 2014 to the summer of 2018, Dr. Bazemore-Hall showed that she was unable to properly run a successful school to the point where the school’s charter had to be revoked for malfeasance,” White said. “I personally would feel irresponsible if I voted to grant Dr. Hall the opportunity to have another [school] given her opportunity to have success at a school for four years and her failure to do so.”

Bazemore-Hall was Bazemore’s married name at the time she led the school.

Bazemore was critical of White’s remarks in a statement Thursday.

Amy White

Ms. White attempted to assassinate my character on the public record without an opportunity for me to respond,” Bazemore said.

Bazemore told CSAB last month that she was concerned about White’s ability to fairly judge HCLA’s application because White was a member of the Wake County Board of Education when Bazemore worked for the school district as an assistant principal and had a “legal situation” that resulted in Bazemore filing a sexual harassment claim against her boss, Bazemore shared.

“She [White] would have been a part of that, and I just want to place that on the record with the hope that this is not a conflict of interest, but certainly with the hope that we will look into it,” Bazemore said.

Bazemore also noted that White has been supportive of Wake Preparatory Academy, a K-12 charter school located just across the Wake County line in Franklin County. Bazemore’s school would compete for students against Wake Prep, she said. Since Franklin County is under a court-ordered desegregation plan, Wake Prep must try to enroll a student population that reflects county demographics.

On Thursday, she said the charter school authorization process favors large, for-profit charter operators and schools that enroll mostly white students.

Kashi Bazemore (Photo via Facebook)

“Minority founders are subjected to harsher authorization processes, and this should never be allowed by public servants in their official capacities,” Bazemore said. “We didn’t receive that. This should raise concerns for all North Carolina citizens.”

In December, HCLA’s application was unanimously approved by the Charter School Advisory Board, which offered glowing remarks about HCLA’s application and Bazemore.

“I’ve seen a different board, I’ve seen a different leader,”  Dave Machado, a member of the charter board 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.”

Machado is the former Office of Charter Schools Director, whose leadership Bazemore often criticized.

The Bertie County version of the school opened in 2014. Control was assumed in 2018 by Raleigh businessman Don McQueen after state education officials found serious academic, governance and operational issues under Bazemore’s leadership. McQueen renamed the school Three Rivers Academy.

The transfer was arranged to prevent the school from closing. But the proposed cure for what ailed the school, proved to be worse than the illness. The state board ordered the school to close last year after a lengthy investigation by the Department of Public Instruction found many of the same serious financial and governance issues.

McQueen’s flagship school in Raleigh, Torchlight Academy, was also ordered closed by the state board because of many of the same financial and governance shortcomings found at Three Rivers. After the schools closed, state education leaders vowed to be more vigilant in their oversight of the state’s more than 200 charter schools.

Bazemore’s new application calls for a K-8 school that would eventually grow to 600 students in five years. Bazemore has said the school would primarily serve Black and Latinx students in northeastern and eastern Wake County, whom she contends are not adequately served by the Wake County Public School System.

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.