Haywood charter school gets approval

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | May 14, 2014
Photo by: Donated photo Pictured from left, the proposed Shining Rock school director Ben Butler and board members Joan Lange, Diane Martinez, Mike Mehaffey, Anna Eason, Julia Bonomo, Torry Pinter II, Tara Keilberg, and Melissa Tinsley celebrate after receiving initial charter approval for Shining Rock Classical Academy. Not pictured, board member Nancy East.

Shining Rock Classical Academy, a proposed charter school in Haywood County, received unanimous approval Monday from the Charter School Advisory Board.

While the advisory board still has to send its recommendation to the North Carolina Board of Education for final approval, Ben Butler, Shining Rock’s proposed school director, is confident that is just a formality.

“We’re moving forward as if it were final,” he said.

The Shining Rock board of directors traveled to Raleigh Monday to interview with the advisory board, which consists mostly of other charter school administrators.

Butler said the advisory board asked questions to determine whether the proposed school had a group of people with the skill sets needed to run a charter school.

“They asked us about curriculum, budgets, questions about governance — all of this to make sure we had a sense of how to run a successful school, and I’m happy to report we received unanimous approval,” Butler said.

If the state board of education approves Shining Rock Classical Academy, the school is looking to open in July 2015. But there is still plenty of groundwork to be laid, said Butler.

The Shining Rock board now has to focus on securing a location for the school and establishing its nonprofit status in order to start fundraising for start-up costs. Butler said the school would also be looking for loans to get the charter school up and running. Hiring should begin in early 2015.

Start-up costs will depend on where the charter school decides to build. Butler said the board is looking into several possibilities but will most likely look for a lease-to- purchase agreement with land to place modular classrooms.

Late last year, the three options under consideration were to lease three acres from a local church and purchase modular buildings for the school, use warehouse space on Frazier Street off Russ Avenue or to lease/purchase the senior high campus of Haywood Christian Academy in Clyde.

Since then, several other options have surfaced, but Butler said it is too early to discuss them.

“If we get all perspective parents that have signed interest forms, we’re looking at about 180 students,” Butler said. “But we haven’t done much more than word of mouth at this point. We’re only looking at Haywood right now but we need to reach out to Jackson County.”

A charter school is a public school that receives public money but is not subject to some of the rules, regulations and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school’s charter.

Charter schools receive per-pupil funding but do not receive funding for capital outlay or transportation like traditional public schools.

Shining Rock has partnered with TeamCFA (Challenge Foundation Academy), a national network of charter schools that includes Brevard Academy, Aristotle Preparatory Academy in Charlotte, Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy in Forest City and New Dimensions in Morganton.

Butler is currently an administrator in training at Brevard Academy and taught at Thomas Jefferson for 10 years.

Butler encourages interested parents to visit the Shining Rock website, www.shiningrockclassicalacademy.com or email him directly with questions at bbutler@brevard.teamcfa.org. As planning moves forward, Butler said the school would schedule a series of community meetings to talk about issues.