Proposed Chatham charter school may not open after leaders struggle to explain curriculum

Posted December 10, 2019 5:04 p.m. EST

— A proposed Chatham County charter school may not open in 2021 as hoped after the school's board of directors struggled to explain their curriculum to state education leaders Tuesday.

The state Charter Schools Advisory Board decided not to recommend opening Carolina Royal Academy after school leaders failed to explain why they chose Core Knowledge as their curriculum. The advisory board's recommendation goes to the State Board of Education, which will make the final decision early next year.

During a question-and-answer session Tuesday, CSAB Vice Chair Steven Walker asked the school's leaders to explain the curriculum and how they would implement it. After a long silence, Carolina Royal Academy's board chair was unable to provide an answer.

"I don’t meant to sidestep that question but what we’re depending on is – our role is governance, and our role is to make sure we hire the correct head of school and leader in the school," said Board Chair John Norwood. "And it's that person’s job to hire the staff and implement these programs."

Dissatisfied with the answer, Walker said the board of directors are "going to have to at least have some knowledge as to what this stuff actually is."

"Is there nobody on the board that can give a 30-second overview of what Core Knowledge is and why you chose that?" Walker asked.

Norwood was still unable to provide an answer.

"We will take that as an opportunity to become more educated on the specifics," Norwood said.

Core Knowledge is a curriculum that includes topics and subtopics in language arts, world history, American history, geography, visual arts, music, mathematics, and science.

Carolina Royal Academy hoped to enroll 525 students in 2021, drawing about 70% of the students from Chatham County and 30% from Wake County. The Wake County Public School System submitted a letter opposing the school's opening

Local school districts opposing charter schools is nothing new. This past summer, the State Board of Education approved five charter schools to open in Wake County in 2020 despite objections from Wake school leaders who said charters were saturating the area and would "increase de facto segregation."

Fourteen new charter schools want to open in North Carolina in August 2021. Charters, 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.

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