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Give it back!

WINDSOR – Citing two state statutes regarding the dispersal of charter school assets, a Superior Court judge here on Friday issued an injunction allowing Three Rivers Academy (TRA) to acquire, without interference, some of the vital assets of the former Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy (HCLA).

First Judicial District Judge J. Carlton Cole heard the case and issued the order in Bertie County Superior court.

Global Education Resources, LLC (GER), the management company of Three Rivers Academy, sought a temporary restraining order earlier this month to prevent the removal of school furnishings, computers, equipment, and buses from the former site of HCLA on County Farm Road in Windsor.

GER believed the items mentioned had been removed from the site sometime in July by HCLA, its founder, Dr. Kashi Bazemore-Hall, or someone at their behest, in a dispute over ownership.

GER had assumed the original charter of HCLA, as granted by the North Carolina State Board of Education, and in June re-branded the school as Three Rivers Academy.

Earlier this week, the State Board ruled on a request by TRA to move the school from Windsor to Powellsville at the site of the old C.G. White Middle School. Relocation outside a five-mile radius where the charter was originally granted had to first receive Board approval.

As for the distribution of the school’s assets, the statute states once a charter school is dissolved, the net assets of that school which are purchased with public funds become the property of the local school administration; in this case, Bertie County Public Schools.

However, should the State Board seek applicants to assume the charter of a school, then the school’s public assets shall transfer to the new entity and shall not go to the local school administration.

Bazemore-Hall represented herself at the hearing, accompanied only by her mother, Mildred. Stephon Bowen represented GER and Three Rivers Academy.

“The law is consistent, clear and unambiguous,” argued Bowen. “Instead of the assets reverting to the school district, they revert to whoever has been granted the assumption.”

Bowen said he had requested a list of the assets, but one had not been provided. He claimed TRA needed these assets, as well as records of special-needs students, in order to meet their scheduled opening date of Aug. 27.

Bazemore-Hall stated that she nor HCLA had received such a request, and said the items removed – including the buses – were placed on private property because the school had to vacate the County Road premises by the end of July.

During her address before the court, Bazemore-Hall spoke passionately of her devotion to the children of HCLA, and claimed some of the items GER were seeking had been donated to the school, including 15 computers from Duke University.

“We feel we are being bullied,” Bazemore-Hall said. “There is a difference in public versus private assets.”

After her presentation, which lasted for more than 20 minutes, Judge Cole measured his reply carefully as he made his ruling.

“The law states you must allow assets to flow to the new school,” the judge said. “While I certainly understand your emotion, I must make this decision based strictly on the law.”

Cole then ordered Bazemore-Hall and HCLA to turn over the assets within the next 10 days, and attached a contempt order to the ruling which states there could be consequences if the ruling is not carried out.

Bowen requested that in addition to granting the injunction, that the judge attach language preventing any physical interference on the part of Bazemore-Hall or HCLA in the transfer of the assets.