Published: Feb 09, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 09, 2013 05:22 PM
As a former PTA Council president for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district, I was concerned by the opinion piece put forward by the principal of the proposed Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School (CHN, Jan. 26, bit.ly/X1T2pn
Much was not disclosed about many of the aspects of this proposal.
She mentioned community members working to open the school, but said nothing of how so many community leaders and organizations oppose the school, from our school district to our local NAACP, many parents, neighbors and environmentalists.
The school is proposed to be on Homestead Road near three of our district schools on land that serves as a wildlife habitat and backs up to Bolin Creek. Serious concerns exist not only about inappropriate land use but also about traffic and pedestrian safety, especially given how the proposed 735-student Lee Charter School would not provide bus service.
Principal Tamara Thomas also said this school would be a tuition-free public charter school that would come at no cost to taxpayers. She neglected to say the school would be managed by a for-profit company, the National Heritage Academies. It is possible according to the Orange County tax office that the school would not have to pay county taxes. The school would, in addition, take away per-pupil expenditures from our school district.
Thomas said the school would serve the Chapel Hill-Carrboro region but failed to elaborate that many students would come not from our district but from Orange County, putting into question our special district tax that applies only to our city schools. It might also raise again the question of merging our city and county schools.
The article says the Lee school would occupy a new spacious building, but no mention is made how the building is based on a standardized design and built far differently from our schools, including trucking in interior walls. Nor is mention made in her list of amenities of the lack of a cafeteria, or a science lab or bus service. About academics, no mention is made of whether teachers must be certified or can be fired at will. No mention is made, either, of whether there will be teacher assistants. Specific details concerning the track record of NHA schools are not given. It is hard to know what is meant by a solid record.
Finally, no mention is made of the National Heritage Academies founders political affiliations or aspirations, which appear to be in line with conservative advocates favoring a radical change in how taxpayer monies are used to fund schools. No mention is made, either, of problems the company has faced in the past, including a lawsuit waged by the ACLU alleging promoting religion in at least one NHA school.
The serious, hard facts need to be considered before our community agrees to place this school on beautiful Homestead Road above Bolin Creek.