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HCLA takeover

RALEIGH – ​Global Education Resources, LLC (GER), a Winston-Salem-based charter school management company, has been selected to assume Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy’s (HCLA) charter in Bertie County by the State Board of Education, the first time in state history that a chater school original charter has been assumed by another group. The move was approved by the state board this past Thursday.

The decision came following a recommendation from the NC Charter Schools Advisory Board when they met in Raleigh on June 11.

GER beat out another charter school management company based out of state, Charter One/Charter Success Partners. Along with GER, they were one of just two groups that submitted proposals to assume the HCLA.

One of the key factors for either of the firms interested in assuming HCLA’s charter was believed to be the outstanding debt for the school which is said to exceed $300,000.

GER currently operates three other charter schools in the Tar Heel State, in Winston-Salem, Raleigh, and Fayetteville.

Before gathering their information, GER selected a six-member board of directors, three members of which are from Bertie County, including the chairman, Tuesday Sauer; other local board members are Sylvia Brooks and Carolyn Smithwick.

Three other board members are not Bertie County residents were Kim Cotton-West from Plymouth, Melissa Grimes of Greenville, and James Montague from Raleigh.

“We are excited and humbled to have been selected by the state to serve students of Eastern North Carolina and their families. Our newly locally comprised board of community activists will be heavily involved in the reorganizing of the structure of the school and in local engagement efforts,” Dennis English, a spokesperson for Global Education Resources, said.

Sauer said Global Education Resources plans to replace the current administration at the school and then conduct an assessment of current staff, facility, and the educational direction of the school as a whole.

“One of the appeals of our group was that we were local, we believed in the school, were committed to education, and we were determined to remain open, whereas the other group wanted to close the school for a year,” Sauer said.

Opened in 2014, HCLA appealed a recommendation from the State Board of Education that its charter be revoked. The board almost revoked the school’s charter in June of last year, but voted instead to set a list of stipulations, which, if not met, would lead to the beginning of revocation proceedings.

In the fall of 2017 the NC Department of Public Instruction told the board there were a list of issues with HCLA, including: the school’s failure to submit timely reports, noncompliance with a statutory requirement to have at least 50 percent of its teachers licensed, repeated financial noncompliance, and noncompliance with the Exceptional Children’s program.

After opening in 2014, Heritage Collegiate was considered low-performing by the state in each of the last three years, with an F in 2015, a D in 2016, and another F in 2017. The school denied the issues submitted by DPI but did not provide specifics in any rebuttal.

There were 166 students enrolled at HCLA when the school finished its latest term, and Sauer says she hopes many parents will opt to re-enroll when the new group formally assumes the charter.

“We not only hope to attract new students, but we want to keep as many students currently enrolled as we can,” she said. “After our overall review, we will then make a decision on faculty and staff retentions.”

The management company has committed to re-opening the school’s doors for the upcoming 2018 school year, and Sauer says an open-house is planned for later this summer. Families that wish to enroll will have the opportunity to apply in the upcoming weeks.

At the vote by the state board, Vice Chairman of the Charter School Advisory Board, Steven Walker, praised GER.

“The people who make up Global Education Resources have shown they have the ‘know-how’ to run a high-quality charter school in Bertie County,” Walker said. “The schools affiliated with Global Education Resources have consistently high growth scores, combining to exceed expected growth in five of the most recent six growth cycles. I look forward to seeing outstanding results in Bertie County as this strong non-profit board teams up with proven charter leaders to operate a much needed charter school for this rural area.”

Over the last two years, the schools under the GER umbrella have met or exceeded academic growth benchmarks set by the state. GER also has a history of growing students in diverse populations and looks forward to bringing that experience and expertise to Bertie County and the surrounding areas.