New charter school aims to open in city


A new charter school hopes to open in the former O.R. Pope Elementary School in Rocky Mount.


Staff Writer

Sunday, September 22, 2019

A new charter school may be on the horizon for the Twin Counties as soon as next year.

According to information recently released by the state Department of Public Instruction, a new charter school called New Generation Charter Academy hopes to open in Edgecombe County in the fall of 2020.

The proposed charter school, which proposes to open under the management of Torchlight Academy Schools according to the state, is one of five applications on an accelerated track for consideration of approval for the coming year.

The deadline to submit a fast-track or acceleration application through the state’s Epicenter automated application system for 2020 was July 29. Each applicant was required to pay a $1,000 application fee and perform criminal background checks on its proposed board members in addition to providing a detailed description of the proposed school’s mission, goals, education plan, operations and governance plan and financial plan, according to a press release from the Department of Public Instruction.

According to the application for the new charter school posted on the department’s website, Nancy McDaniel of Whitaker is the contact person for the application. Whitaker declined to be interviewed at this time, but the application states that she and her team plan to open the charter school in the former O.R. Pope Elementary School in Rocky Mount.

“New Generation Charter Academy has obtained a firm commitment for use of (the) former Pope Elementary School located at 226 Coleman Avenue Rocky Mount,” the application states. “The facility will undergo minor upgrades such as paint and other repairs but will obtain an educational certificate of occupancy on or before July 1, 2020. The governing board has been working with the facility owner and anticipates that all required inspections, including fire, health and safety, and others will be completed before July 1, 2020.”

One confusing aspect of the charter school application is that it lists Edgecombe County Public Schools as the school district in which the school will be located. However, the former Pope Elementary School is within the Nash-Rocky Mount school district though it is physically located in Edgecombe County. In fact, the Nash-Rocky Mount school district sold the elementary school last year because it was considered unsuitable for a school site because of maintenance and compliance issues.

The state Office of Charter Schools did not return numerous attempts to contact them for clarification concerning this issue.

According to the application, “New Generation Charter Academy is projected to start with 220 students in grades K-4 in year one and expand to 396 students in grades K-8 by year five. The school will add one grade level per year.”

At maximum capacity, the school would draw fewer than 5 percent of the combined student grade level population from schools in both Nash and Edgecombe counties, the application said. The plan is for the school to eventually offer two classes of roughly 22 students each for grades K-8.

The application states that there is a need for a quality school in the area and that the school already has attracted interest. However, most of the information presented in the application concerns Edgecombe County Public Schools, even though the location of the school is slated to be in the Nash-Rocky Mount school district.

“Data from Edgecombe County schools reveals that 11 of 14 schools in the county are “D” or “F” schools on the N.C. Public Schools Report Card,” the application states. “Several schools have been considered candidates for transfer to the Innovative School District because of chronic poor performance. Families in this area are placed in struggling schools and families do not have accessible, high-performing options to send their children. Our school has already received over 160 surveys that are highly favorable and illustrate demand for the school.

“New Generation Academy has a facility which can serve the initial population and has the capacity for the projected growth. It previously served as a school for Edgecombe County. There is a need for school choice and a demand from the community for better educational options for local children,” the application says.

The school’s mission would be unique, according to the application.

“New Generation Charter Academy’s school mission ‘To prepare students for the intellectual demands of an ever-changing world’ is unique within the context of Edgecombe County,” the application states. “Edgecombe County is a changing community as noted below with respect to the county’s economic development status. The proposed accelerated school’s educational program embraces strategies and techniques which will make it unique and valuable in Edgecombe County.”

The school plans to offer active-based learning strategies to overcome the disadvantages students face in the local school district, the application states.

“The school’s use of Active-Based Learning Strategies was selected because of the local school district’s 97.57 percent poverty rate. Active-Based Learning Strategies have demonstrated success in the Success Academies schools with educationally disadvantaged students, particularly with high poverty students. Our school’s unique mission and educational plan make it standout as a beacon of hope in a community where children’s life chances are being immediately and irreparable harmed by the poor quality of education offered by the local school district,” the application states.

The application also notes failed attempts at educational reforms as another reason for the need for acceleration of the charter school application. Again, the application refers to Edgecombe County Public Schools even though the proposed site of the school would be in the Nash-Rocky Mount school district.

“Another factor which militates in favor of acceleration of the New Generation Charter Academy charter application is the history of failed efforts at educational reform in Edgecombe County. The local elected board of education incumbent leadership was served since the 1990’s (sic) which has not resulted in improvements to student outcomes in local schools. There is no reasonable basis to expect things will change any time soon.

“The local leadership appears to lack vision for meaningful educational reform. The entrenched leadership and lack of progress at educational reform demonstrate that the leadership and their lack of vision are major obstacles to needed educational reform in Edgecombe County, and as a consequence students’ life chances are severely impaired,” the application states.

According to information provided by the state, the proposed charter school leaders are currently slated for an interview process, but there is no firm deadline for when the school’s charter will face an approval decision. Accelerations receive a priority review but do not have a statutory deadline for consideration of approval, according to a press release from the state.

If the charter school is approved, it would be able to serve students from both the Nash-Rocky Mount and Edgecombe County school districts as well as surrounding areas.