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Charlotte charter school faces possible closure over academic and leadership struggles

Eastside STREAM Academy.png
Eastside STREAM Academy

North Carolina charter school officials want to cut off public funding for an east Charlotte charter school, citing persistently low academic performance and leadership problems.

Eastside STREAM Academy, a K-8 charter school that opened in 2013, could lose its charter and access to public money. The recommendation came at Wednesday’s state Board of Education meeting.

The board authorizes more than 200 charter schools to receive local, state and federal money. Every few years, the independent boards that run those schools have to come before the state’s Office of Charter Schools to demonstrate that they’re making good use of that money.

This year 38 charter schools are up for renewal, which means that state officials review their students’ academic performance, the school’s financial status and compliance with regulations. The board can renew their charters for up to 10 years, for a shorter time period while they make improvements, or, in rare cases, move to revoke their charters.

“The three-year is the absolute flashing caution light,” said state board member Amy White, who chairs the charter school committee. “They are under a lot of scrutiny. So for these schools, it is ‘get your act together,’ right? It’s a warning.”

And in rare cases, problems are so persistent that the state terminates the charter. Baquero is recommending that action against two schools this year, including Eastside STREAM.

“They have been continually low performing and in 10 years of operations they’ve had over, I believe, 11 leaders,” she said. Baquero says there have also been complaints from staff and a history of problems with fiscal management.

The school has 326 students, and a board member asked why enrollment wasn’t dwindling despite the problems.

“I think a big factor in that is that they built a new building,” Baquero said. “It’s a beautiful building. It’s in a location that doesn’t have a lot of other options.”

The charter school office is still reviewing the final two schools. The Board of Education will vote on renewal recommendations at a later meeting.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.