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As has already been reported, the Charter Day School group of public charter schools run by a private company has turned over much of the salary information.

Both the Wilmington Star-News and ProPublica, a national investigative journalism non-profit, have reports out about what was missing from the disclosures.

Roger Bacon Academies, the company owned by conservative charter school founder Baker Mitchell Jr., has received millions in public funds as part of the company’s exclusive contracts to run four Wilmington-area charter schools — Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, South Brunswick High School in Southport and Douglass Academy in Wilmington.

The State Board of Education, as part of an effort to increase transparency in charter schools, had asked for detailed salary information from all 148 charter schools operating in the state, including those who have contracts with education management companies. The quartet of schools run by Roger Bacon Academies were the only schools to not respond to the state’s request. The schools provided the information after it was put on a financial noncompliance status earlier this month.

The Wilmington paper reported this week that the salaries of Charter Day School administrators seem to lag their traditional public school counterparts, but note that details about bonuses or other financial benefits were not disclosed to the N.C. Department of Instruction.

Nor was salary information about Mitchell’s son, who works at the schools as an information technology director, provided, according to this report from ProPublica. The group published an extensive article looking into the North Carolina charter schools earlier this fall.

From ProPublica:

Nick Mitchell, Baker Mitchell’s son, is on the payroll of Roger Bacon Academy, his father’s for-profit management company, according to both his LinkedIn profile and the schools’ own organizational charts. The younger Mitchell is the only management firm employee listed on the schools’ organizational charts whose salary is not on the list turned over to regulators.

The North Carolina State Board of Education last week took Mitchell’s charter schools off financial probation after finally receiving the salary list. After ProPublica flagged the missing salary to the state board, an agency attorney, Katie Cornetto, said the state has “asked the school to clarify” and is awaiting a response.

And what does the non-profit board of directors that employs Roger Bacon Academies have to say? Apparently not much, at least to ProPublica.

From the article:

We also requested comment from Baker Mitchell and John Ferrante, the chair of the nonprofit board that oversees the schools. In an email reply ending with a smiley-face emoticon, Ferrante declined to answer ProPublica’s question about the missing salary.

You can read the entire exchange here.

News

A group of Wilmington-area charter schools missed a Monday deadline to provide information to the state about salaries earned by employees of a private contractor that work at the public schools.

Baker Mitchell of Roger Bacon Adademies, with students.

Baker Mitchell of Roger Bacon Academies, with students.

But the private company contracted to run the four charter schools said it will give up the salary information under one condition – that it be considered a “trade secret” and withheld from the public.

“This is a simple yet reasonable approach, utilized frequently throughout North Carolina by state, county and local public agencies to protect confidential and proprietary mutual interests of CDS, DPI, SBE and their constituents, while preserving the sanctity of the RBA Confidential Information,” wrote George Fletcher, an attorney for Roger Bacon Academies in an Oct. 21 letter to John Ferrante, the chair of the schools’ non-profit board of directors.

(Scroll down to read the letter.)

Roger Bacon Academies, the company owned by conservative charter school founder Baker Mitchell Jr., has received millions in public funds as part of the company’s exclusive contracts to run four Wilmington-area charter schools – Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, Douglass Academy in Wilmington and South Brunswick Charter School in Bolivia.

Nearly 2,000 students enrolled at the four tuition-free schools this year, which draw down federal, state and local education funds. Mitchell also owns a company that leases land and school supplies to the public charter schools. Close to $9 million has gone to Mitchell’s companies over the last two years, according to the Wilmington Star-News.

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Commentary

slowdownThis morning’s editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it right on the state Board of Education’s plan to approve two new “virtual” charter schools. The central message: “Not so fast!”

Charters were seen initially as a chance to be “laboratories” for public education, as places to cultivate innovations that could be used in conventional schools. But too many charter advocates have viewed them as “alternative” schools, almost private schools funded by the public. Now that there’s no limit on the number of charter schools North Carolina can have, Republicans seem inclined to invite an almost unlimited number to open without knowing whether they’re succeeding.

The state needs to more closely oversee and evaluate the charters that exist before going in to the Brave New World of online-only charters.

The N&O’s conclusion is pretty self-evident — especially if you’ve read any of NC Policy Watch’s reporting on the scoundrels at the for-profit virtual charter company, K12, Inc. But if you have any doubts, check out this in-depth report from earlier this year by a team of experts at the National Education Policy Center. According to the authors:

“Despite considerable enthusiasm for virtual education in some quarters, there is little credible research to support virtual schools’ practices or to justify ongoing calls for ever-greater expansion.”

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Uncategorized

Senator Jerry Tillman’s bill that would aim to replace the Common Core academic standards with alternatives developed by a North Carolina review commission would allow Common Core to remain in place this fall, as students return to their classrooms and commission members consider different solutions.

But remarks made by Sen. Tillman yesterday at the Senate Education Committee meeting, where the proposed legislation was ultimately moved forward on a voice vote, incited some confusion over whether or not Common Core would be gone as soon as his bill became law, presumably within a few weeks.

“This bill becomes effective July 1, the Common Core standards are removed and repealed as of July 1,” explained Tillman to committee members. Read More

Uncategorized

Buddy Collins

According to an announcement released earlier today, Gov. McCrory has appointed A.L. “Buddy” Collins of Forsyth County to a two-year term on the state Task Force on Safer Schools. According to the release:  “The task force will provide guidance to the Center for Safer Schools and consider future policy and legislative action that is needed to improve school safety in North Carolina.”

The selection of Collins (pictured at left in an image taken from the website of the advocacy group Equality NC) comes as a bit of a surprise given the controversy that swirled around his original nomination to the Board of Education. That nomination, of course, was opposed vehemently by human rights advocates — particularly folks in the LGBT community — because of Collins’ repeated past clashes with advocates over proposed rules to protect LGBT children from bullying while serving on the Forsyth County Board of Education.

That controversy led Equality NC to detail a list of half-dozen objectionable acts by Collins and to call for Gov. McCrory to reconsider Collins’ nomination — an act he apparently never took.

Today’s appointment is rendered all the more interesting (and even ironic) by the fact that the Governor’s new “comprehensive plan” to make schools safer specifically mentions bullying at least 30 times.