CHAPEL HILL - A proposed charter school could cost the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools $4.6 million in 2012-13, its first year of operation, according to the district's assistant superintendent for support services.
Todd LoFrese told the school board last week the Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School would decrease the city school system's per-pupil funds by about $4.6 million to $7 million over its first four years, when it plans to grow from a K-5 school with 480 students to a K-8 school with 723 students.
The Lee school advanced to the next stage of the state application process last Wednesday as an N.C. Department of Public Instruction committee sent it forward for an interview in January. The state board of education will decide on applications in March.
The school would be named for the former Chapel Hill mayor - the South's first post-Reconstruction black mayor in a predominantly white town - and his wife, herself a former local educator. The location is as yet undecided, according to the school's application.
School board member Greg McElveen asked LoFrese how losing students to the new school would affect spending on teaching and other positions.
"It's not necessarily a one to one," LoFrese said, explaining that some support positions are per-pupil-funding based, while others are direct allocations.
On Friday, LoFrese estimated that from 20 to 40 fewer classroom teachers would be needed, adding up to cost-cutting of about $1.2 million to $2.2 million.
"Then we'd have to look at other positions," as well as money spent on classroom supplies and professional development, he said.
Complicating that are "all kinds of support provided - instructional coaches, nurses, EC (exceptional children) teachers - sometimes those are single teachers, sometimes those are attached to individual schools."
EC teachers, for example, are allocated based on student need, not on per-pupil funding.
Expressed succinctly, "the expense reduction doesn't equal our revenue loss," LoFrese said.Forcella responds
The board also reviewed a letter that Superintendent Tom Forcella sent Dec. 7 to the state's charter schools office that disputed the Lee school's citing the achievement gap and schools overcrowding as evidence of need.
The letter clarified progress in closing the achievement gap and noted that the district would be opening an 11th elementary school to address overcrowding in August 2013. The district reports that the percentage of black third-through-eighth-graders proficient on the End-of-Grade tests rose from 47.7 percent in 2008-09 to 58.8 percent in 2010-2011. Hispanic students achieving proficiency rose from 54.8 percent to 65.2 percent over that period. White students stayed at about 95 percent from 2008 to 2011.
While the figures show progress, Forcella and school board members agreed Thursday there was a long way to go.
"Obviously there is some level of demand for this school because we have not made as much progress as we would like to," new board member James Barrett said.
Forcella said officials could learn, for example, from "some of the schools in Wake County that are doing a better job than we are in this area."
He also noted that North Carolina's adopting the Common Core State Standards in math and literacy and the N.C. Essentials Standards in all other content areas will bring new curricula to all students next year.
"This comes at a perfect time," Forcella said, "because we're at a time when not only the state, but most of the nation, is looking at how they look at classroom instruction to more of a thinking model and not just a spitting back the facts kind of model."
Board member Michelle Brownstein emphasized that schools need to ensure that students who aren't reading by the time they enter third grade get the literacy instruction they need to move forward.Diversity threatened
Forcella expressed concern to the board that the Lee school could erode the district's diversity.
The school would be run by National Heritage Academies, a charter school management company based in Michigan, whose schools' enrollments are 64 percent black, according to the application, and whose focus is college readiness, according to its website.
"There would be, I think, a detrimental impact to our district in that our minority numbers are not huge and that if this were to come to fruition in the [enrollment] numbers they are hoping to generate, it could significantly decrease our numbers as far as minority students - and I know this district and this community value diversity," Forcella said. "And we would not want to see those numbers go down in our schools and we actually would want to see us do a better job in working with it and keep the numbers up to where they are now."
A Sept. 22, 2010, breakdown on the district website lists 12.8 percent of students as black, 11.0 percent as Hispanic, 14.9 percent as Asian, 6.5 percent as multi-racial and 54.6 percent as white.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.