State won't renew charter for Carrboro's PACE Academy

Feb. 06, 2014 @ 05:02 PM

The state Board of Education on Thursday unanimously agreed to not renew PACE Academy’s charter.

So, unless school officials launch a successful appeal, the troubled charter school in Carrboro will close its doors when its charter expires June 30, leaving more than 160 high school students scrambling to find a new school in the fall.

The school has been cited by the state Office of Charter Schools for patterns of noncompliance, low academic performance and concerns about the school’s financial sustainability.

School leaders, Principal Rhonda Franklin and Assistant Principal Jane Miller, could not be reached for comment Thursday, but in recent weeks challenged many of the charges made by state charter school officials.

The state board also did not renew the charter of Coastal Academy for Technology in Morehead City, which was cited by the state for similar problems.

Joel Medley, director of the office of Charter Schools, said school officials attended Thursday’s meeting, but also will be notified by mail about the board’s decision.

Medley said the letter will explain the process to close the school and inform school leaders about the appeals process.

PACE and Coastal Academy have 60 days to appeal the decision after receiving the letter, he said.

If neither school successfully appeals the decision, they will become the fifth and sixth schools to lose their charters since North Carolina began granting them in 1997.

Medley said there have been 48 charters granted since 1997, including the four non-renewals, that are no longer in use.      

He said several schools that received charters never opened, some had them revoked and others voluntarily gave them up.

Among the 160 students enrolled at PACE are seven members of the Bull City Prep Academy basketball team, a club team that uses the school to educate some of its players.

The state launched an inquiry last month into the relationship between PACE and Bull City Prep, asking the school for detailed answers to questions about its involvement with players who attend the school.

Medley said PACE officials already submitted answers, which were due today, to the questions asked by the state.

PACE officials told The Herald-Sun in a recent interview that the school has no relationship with Bull City Prep and that some of its players just happen to attend the school.

Darryl Harris, founder and coach of Bull City Prep, said Thursday said that he would move his players to another school if PACE closes.

“I’ll move them to a regular public school, another charter school or private school that’s accepted by the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association,” Harris said. “I feel bad about what’s happening to the school because I think PACE is a good school.”

The loss of PACE also could prove troublesome for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) district, which sent the state a letter of support for the school, which serves a high percentage of exceptional children.

Jeff Nash, spokesman for CHCCS, said PACE’s closure could cause some logistical concerns if students from the district decide to attend their home schools.

“There might be a slight increase in student enrollment if they decide to come back to our schools, but we’ll accommodate them,” Nash said.

He noted that if 50 PACE students decided to enroll in CHCCS high schools, then that’s the equivalent to two additional classrooms of students.

Nash said the district also would have to honor the individual educational plans of those exceptional students who require them.