Proposed charter school for American Indians won't open in 2020; board calls curriculum too 'divisive'

Posted November 12, 2019 6:52 p.m. EST
Updated November 12, 2019 6:55 p.m. EST

— A proposed charter school geared toward American Indian students will not be allowed to open next year after a state charter school board found the school's curriculum was "divisive instead of bringing unity."

Old Main STREAM Academy hoped to open in Robeson County in 2020 and was initially approved by the state's Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) in a 4-3 vote. But the State Board of Education raised questions about the school and asked the CSAB to reconsider the application.

During a meeting Tuesday, some CSAB members said they had a change of heart after learning more about the school's proposed "red pedagogy" and focus on Indigenous students.

"What are you going to do if a white child comes or black child or Hispanic child comes? I know your heart would be to grow them too, but that’s not what your application says," CSAB member Lindalyn Kakadelis said.

Brenda Deese, a board member for the proposed school, said they would accept all students at the school.

Kakadelis said she researched a book about red pedagogy and found that it was "divisive instead of bringing unity."

"I did not find one thing in the book that talked about the greatness of America," she said. "Now let me make it perfectly clear – America has sins. There are things I wished we had never done, slavery included – bad marks on our country. But we learned from them and we’re changed and we’re not what we used to be."

Despite CSAB members' concerns about the school, they praised the group's passion and encouraged them to submit another application next year with a focus on inclusiveness.

"I do feel like this group is deeply passionate about the work that they do," CSAB Chairman Alex Quigley said.

"I really do hope you all come back next year," CSAB Vice Chairman Steven Walker added.

Charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately run schools that do not charge tuition, have been booming in North Carolina with more than 100,000 students enrolled at 196 schools across the state. Twelve charters opened this year, and 10 more are expected next year – putting the state's count at 206 charter schools.

Charter schools were created in North Carolina two decades ago, and their enrollment has increased more than 200 percent in the past 10 years.

In order to open a new charter school, the state's Office of Charter Schools reviews the applications for completeness before forwarding them to the CSAB. The CSAB then reviews the applications and interviews the proposed school leaders before making recommendations to the State Board of Education about which schools should open.

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