Charter school contract put on hold

By Johnny Jackson

Despite harsh weather and power outages in the area late Thursday afternoon, Clayton County Board of Education members managed to hold their called meeting, one not lacking some controversy or brevity.

Amid policy amendments and personnel recommendations, board members decided to support a recommendation submitted by Assistant Superintendent Janice Davis and the Clayton County Charter Review Board Committee that would effectively put a contract between the County and Lewis Academy of Excellence Charter School on hold for the 2005 school year. The contract would enable the charter school to be located in the Clayton County School System upon attainment of a valid Certificate of Occupancy, which would affirm that the school is in proper condition to be occupied.

Patricia Lewis, the founder of Lewis Academy of Excellence, said that she received a call Thursday afternoon about the board's recommendation to revoke the charter school's contract with the County.

"We will have our C.O., we will have our C.O., we will have our C.O.," Lewis chanted. "We will have our Certificate of Occupancy."

Surrounded by dozens of ardent supporters, Lewis explained her progress towards opening the charter school. She introduced her architect Tore Knudsen, a registered architect of Harrow Knudsen, LLC, Corp. in downtown Atlanta.

"The building is in excellent condition," Knudsen said. "It's actually pretty close to being up to code."

One necessity includes the ability to make the 40-year-old building handicap accessible. Before becoming a charter school, it was used as the Riverdale First United Methodist Church.

Knudsen said he plans to meet with the Fire Department on Monday and Health and Building departments next week to be sure the school will be up to code.

"It's what we need more of," said Innis Claud, whose granddaughter, 6-year-old Robin Stanford is registered to attend the Lewis Academy of Excellence. "There's nothing wrong with a charter school. It represents character and discipline. And we will have our charter school."

According to Charles White, the coordinator of public affairs and community relations for Clayton County Public Schools, the board vote does not completely nullify the charter contract. But, he said, the school will not be allowed to open for the 2005 school year.

In other school board news

Theresa McDugald, chief financial officer for Clayton County Public Schools, presented the board with a Tax Anticipation Note Resolution or loan. Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc., won a bid to loan the County $30 million this year on an 3.25 percent interest rate scheduled to mature on Dec. 23, 2005. The resolution was approved unanimously.

The board also voted unanimously to table Policy BBD, Board-Superintendent Relations, for further Board Policy Committee discussion. The edited policy outlined what authority board members have as individuals to "elicit reports" among other actions. District IX board member Connie Kitchens objected to vague language in the amended policy.

"It questions the integrity of board members," Kitchens said. She explained that board members should be allowed to produce or elicit old reports to their constituents. "They have a right to know."

Latoya Walker, District I board member, requested that wording be changed in Policy DJEA, Purchasing Authority found in the Board Policy Manual to read "acceptable vendor" as opposed to "qualified vendor." The board voted unanimously in favor of the policy amendment.

A board sanctioned evaluation committee recommended Deloitte Human Capital to work on the County's Compensation Study. The Compensation Consulting Service will have a budget of $300,000, though committee members expect the study will cost approximately $200,000.