Carrboro school fights decision to revoke charter

Posted July 7, 2015 5:06 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2015 6:14 p.m. EDT

— For the second time in two years, the administrators of Pace Academy and parents of students are fighting to keep the Carrboro charter school open.

The State Board of Education has twice voted to revoke Pace's charter, citing financial woes, low student performance and administrative issues. The board relented last year to give the school a second chance.

"Anytime I make this recommendation, it’s hard because of the kids and the parents, but it was an easy decision in deciding what is right," state board member Becky Taylor testified Tuesday before Administrative Law Judge Phil Berger Jr., who is hearing the school's appeal of the latest revocation.

Pace, which opened in 2004 and primarily serves special-needs students, hasn't complied with state and federal laws regarding the students and has "extreme attendance issues," Taylor said.

For example, when state officials visited the school during the 2013-14 school year, only 89 of the 169 students supposedly enrolled at the school were present, she said. A lawyer for the school responded by noting that students weren't necessarily absent because Pace allows for flexible schedules depending on the needs of the student.

Parents said Pace fills a need that they can't find elsewhere for their children.

"I think it’s the best place for him. I think his confidence in himself and as a student, he’s matured," said Nadirah Pitts of Durham, whose 16-year-old son has ADHD and recently finished his first year of high school at Pace.

"He’s earning As and Bs. It’s the first time," Pitts said. "We think him being in a smaller classroom setting with additional instructional support has been crucial for him being successful in school."

Sherry Mergner of Chatham County, who also has a 16-year-old son at Pace, called the students at the school "a vulnerable population."

"I think their student population is much different than found in traditional (schools)," Mergner said. "They don't test as well. There's a different criteria that I think they need to follow, and it doesn't necesarrily fit with the public school criteria."

The administrative hearing is expected to last three days, and a decision could take weeks or months. Even then, Berger's ruling could still be appealed.

The State Board of Education last month revoked the charter of Dynamic Community Charter School in Raleigh, which also served special-needs students.