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Single charter school recommended for launch in Mississippi

August 23, 2019

State officials on Friday moved toward approving one new charter school this year, acting on the recommendation of consultants who reviewed applications.

The decision by a three-member committee of the Charter School Authorizer Board will go before the full board for a vote on Sept. 9.

Consultants hired by the board concluded that only MS Delta Academies, which wants to open a school serving grades 6-8 in Greenwood, fully meets the recommended educational, financial and operational requirements. The committee accepted the consultants’ recommendation unanimously, said charter board executive director Lisa Karmacharya.

MS Delta Academies’ application to operate Leflore Legacy Academy was turned down last year over concerns about the school’s proposed curriculum, which included a focus on college counseling and college admissions test preparation for middle schoolers.

Three other applications were recommended for rejection, Karmacharya said. They include Mississippi Community Education Center’s proposed K-5 school in Greenwood, SR1′s proposed K-5 school in Canton and the Randy J. Naylor Memorial Foundation’s proposed K-6 school in Vicksburg.

SR1, a school tutoring and support group that was a finalist for a third year in a row, met standards for finances but only partially met educational and operational standards, the consultants said. Mississippi Community Education Center didn’t meet any of the standards and the Randy J. Naylor Foundation fell far below the standards, they said.

Karmacharya said the board is seeking written public comment on applications and will accept in-person comment before it votes next month. The public may find it difficult to comment knowledgeably on the applications, however. Unlike in some previous years, the board has not posted the applications online.

Karmacharya said the applications would be released after the vote. The Associated Press filed a public records request for the four finalists’ applications but was told it would be charged $909 for copies and a legal review of the documents before they could be released. Karmacharya said the 15-cents-a-page charge for downloading and reproducing documents is necessary, even though the applications are submitted electronically, because there are many different files. The AP has not paid the fee.

After the AP’s request, the board notified the finalists that they had the option of going to chancery court to file a legal action seeking all or part of the applications be withheld as trade secrets under a provision of state law that is usually used by vendors selling goods or services to state government. Karmacharya said one of the four applicants, which she did not identify, had requested redactions of such trade secrets. The AP has not received notice of any chancery court action.

Karmacharya, who was hired by the board earlier this year, said she was following directives from a lawyer assigned to the charter board by the attorney general’s office.

“I can’t speak for what happened prior to my being here,” she said when asked why the board had stopped posting applications online.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy .

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