PACE to remain open, receive a three-year charter

Jun. 29, 2014 @ 07:08 PM

PACE Academy, the public charter school in Carrboro, got a reprieve from threat of closure last week after the state Board of Education agreed to grant the school a three-year charter provided it meets certain conditions outlined in a five-page settlement agreement.
The school’s future was in doubt in February after the state Board of Education voted unanimously not to renew PACE’s charter, citing a pattern of noncompliance, low academic performance and concerns about the school’s financial sustainability.
“We’re looking forward to next year and to getting back to the businesses of educating students,” said Jane Miller, the school’s assistant principal.
Miller said the school, which finished the school year with an enrollment of 149 students, has notified parents that the school will open in August.
“We put a letter in the mail yesterday,” Miller said. “The news has traveled fast through them [parents] as well as through our supporters.”
Miller said the school will enroll up to 157 students when it starts in August.
“We’re definitely doing our best to recruit students for the fall,” Miller said.
Under the agreement, PACE will dismiss the contested case it filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings after its charter was not renewed.
The school must also expand its board of directors to seven members no later than Oct. 31, hold monthly meetings and provide the state Department of Public Instruction with monthly board minutes and financial statements within five days of each meeting.
The agreement calls for PACE to hold a board retreat in early August to develop a strategic plan to set operational, financial and governance goals for the next three years and to develop policies to address “significant problems” such as the schools failure to comply with the required 95 percent participation on state tests and the lack of a principal evaluation model to evaluate the school’s principal each year.
The school must submit the strategic plan to DPI no later than 30 days after the retreat.
The agreement mandates that PACE continue to comply with all federal and state laws and regulations in the charter agreement and to conduct its financial affairs in a fiscally responsible manner.
Its audits for the next three years must also be clean with no findings material weaknesses.
The board must undergo training conducted by DPI.
PACE’s board is the second among area charter school to be ordered to undergo training.
Early this month, the board at Kestrel Heights charter school in    Durham had its charter reduced from five to three years and was ordered to undergo training after its board of directors failed to provide public notice of meetings and has not followed proper procedures for closed sessions.
PACE received its charter in to operate in 2004.
More than 50 percent of its students are served by Individualized Education Plans, which are required for children who receive special education due to learning disabilities.
Sarah Waxler’s son, Louie Waxler Green, graduated from PACE this month.
Waxler said Green has several learning disabilities and needed a specialized environment to succeed academically.
She said she is grateful that the school will remain open for other students who need such an environment.
“I believe it was wonderful, nurtured experience for my child,” Waxler said. “The fact that they’re letting them continue is wonderful. I thought it was going to be terrible if it closed.”