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Torchlight Academy Schools could lose one client, but looks to gain six in new round of charter school applications

The Raleigh-based charter school operator at the center of a management dispute with the Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School (Essie Mae) in Rowan County is listed as the management organization on five new charter school applications received by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction ahead of the Aug, 26 deadline.

Torchlight Academy Schools is also listed as the management firm for New Generation Charter Academy in Edgecombe County. The school is one of five seeking fast-track approval to open next year.

Citing poor fiscal and operational management, Essie Mae officials asked the State Board of Education (SBE) to approve a request to terminate its relationship with Torchlight. The Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) has already approved the split.

The SBE is expected to vote on the request when it meets Thursday for its September business meeting.

Torchlight is listed as the proposed management firm of BEAM Academy in Bladen County, Lighthouse Charter School of the Arts in Greene County, North Davidson Charter Academy in Mecklenburg County, Power Elite Male Academy in Mecklenburg County and RISE Academy, Inc. in Wake County.

Torchlight already manages three charters, including a school in Raleigh that bears its name.

As a result of the Essie Mae request, Don McQueen, president of Torchlight Academy Schools, expects the CSAB to look closely at the applications submitted by the new schools Torchlight would manage.

“They have been reasonable, fair-minded and firm,” McQueen said of CSAB members. “They don’t let much get by them.”

Torchlight could end up managing as many as five of the new 14 schools seeking charter approval from the SBE this cycle.

Here are the other nine new schools seeking charter approval:

  • Carolina Royal, Chatham County.
  • City Charter Academy, Guilford County.
  • Clara Science Academy, Mecklenburg County.
  • Huntersville Charter High School, Mecklenburg County.
  • Oak Grove Charter Academy, Durham County.
  • Peak Academy, Buncombe County.
  • Revolution Academy: Bunker Hill, Guilford County.
  • Teira Institute, Mecklenburg County
  • The Soaring Eagle Academy – TheSEA, Pitt County.

The charter school movement in North Carolina continues to motor along despite complaints from critics who contend they rob traditional public schools of resources and contribute to racial segregation.

There are 198 charters now operating in North Carolina, with 12 scheduled to open in 2020.

The number of charters operating in the state has nearly doubled since lawmakers lifted the 100-school cap in 2011.

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