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A Charter School Pitch That's Good Enough

Bonnie Cone Academy

A new charter school may be coming to Charlotte’s University area in the fall of 2017. This week Bonnie Cone Classical Academy got the recommendation of the state’s advisory group that vets charters. But it was a close vote.

Vetting a charter school is a two-year process. The first stage involves a lengthy application and, then, making the school’s case to the charter advisory group. That’s part pitch and interrogation. 

“You all can move to the front table there,” says Alex Quigley, chairman of the advisory group. “Yes, it’s also called the hot seat.” 

The school’s board laughs, but a lot is riding on this session. Get a recommendation here and the state board of education will most likely give the school the go ahead to begin a year of planning. The school’s application didn’t make it two years ago and the school’s board ended up starting the whole process over again.

“Your mission and start us off what the need is for the school in the Charlotte area,” prompts Quigley.   

Bonnie Cone Classical Academy would start off serving 207 kindergarten through second-graders. The plan is for it to eventually expand to eighth grade. 

Louise Baucom speaks for the school. She’s a retired elementary education professor at UNC Charlotte. 

“The mission is meeting the classical education and the rigors of that. Working through great communications skills,” responds Baucom. “We found in the university area they don’t have a lot of opportunity for choice.”

A few advisory group members aren’t satisfied with that response. They press her about what makes it a classical education. Eric Sanchez asks her how this actually informs instruction. 

“That’s in the hiring of the teachers. That’s in the leadership of the school. To make those decisions has to come when you figure out who your population actually is,” answers Baucom.

“Are you telling me the educational program is made after students and teachers are enrolled and hired?” asks Sanchez.

“No,” says Baucom. But she says the specifics are. 

They also talk money. Enrollment determines how large the school’s budget is. The advisory group asks how short of enrollment estimates the school can be and still break even. A representative of the school says the charter could lose ten to fifteen students. That’s tight.  One advisory group member notes some schools that size lose twice that number in attrition alone after the school year starts. 

Sanchez says he isn’t sold on the school.   

“I just don’t think there was a level of depth, preparation or just intuitive understanding about what they were trying to accomplish,” says Sanchez. 

Advisory group member Joe Maimone votes to recommend it. He says the school has an experienced board and Charlotte has the growth to support the school.

“The application was I think written well.  I think the education plan was pretty solid in there. I think on their feet in a half hour interview they probably could’ve been a little bit sharper. I understand those concerns.” 

Bonnie Cone Classical Academy gets the advisory group’s recommendation with a 6-to-3 vote.

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.