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State Board of Education panel to hear appeal of Charter Schools Review Board decision

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State Board of Education panel to hear appeal of Charter Schools Review Board decision

Nov 20, 2023 | 3:55 pm ET
By Greg Childress
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State Board of Education panel to hear appeal of Charter Schools Review Board decision
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Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy (Courtesy photo)

The leaders of the proposed Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy-Wake are appealing a review board’s decision to deny it a charter, preventing the school from opening.

A three-member State Board of Education panel will hear HCLA-Wake’s appeal Monday, Nov. 27, at 10 a.m., in a virtual meeting. The panel will then make a recommendation to the state board on Dec. 7.

State Board of Education panel to hear appeal of Charter Schools Review Board decision
Kashi Bazemore (Photo via Facebook)

“This appeal has been requested by the [HCLA-Wake Board of Directors] because we firmly believe that our charter school application will meet the needs of hundreds of students who currently don’t have strong school options now,” charter applicant Kashi Bazemore said in an email to the review board and NC Department of Public Instruction officials

Bazemore said HCLA-Wake looks forward to addressing review board and state board concerns about the school and its leadership.

“All we ask for in exchange is a fair and thorough application review and appeal review process,” Bazemore said.

Both the review board and state board rejected HCLA-Wake’s application, citing concern about Bazemore’s leadership of a low-performing charter school in Bertie County that was assumed by another charter operator in 2018 before permanently closing in 2022.

The State Board of Education no longer has the initial authority to approve or deny charters. Lawmakers handed that power to the review board when it approved House Bill 618, which established the body.

Under the new law, charter applicants can appeal review board decisions to the state board.

The law requires the state board to consider appeals “de novo,” which means it must consider the application as though it is seeing it for the first time.

Monday’s appeal’s hearing will be the first for the state board since HB 618 became law. The HCLA-Wake application has attracted attention because the former Charter School Advisory Board, which the review board replaced, had recommended state board approval.

The advisory board gave the HCLA-Wake application high marks and praised Bazemore and the school’s board of directors.

“I’ve seen a different board, I’ve seen a different leader,” Dave Machado, an advisory board member and former director of the Office of Charter Schools said in December. “We need to take into consideration mistakes in the past, but I don’t think they ought to be penalized when there’s a path to run a better school this time.”

Review board members had a change of heart last month during a hearing to reconsider the state board’s vote against HCLA-Wake’s request for a charter.

Bartley Danielsen, who served on the advisory board that recommended charter approval for HCLA-Wake, told colleagues that he’s no longer confident that the Heritage Collegiate board can effectively run a school.

“I think the first time I saw this [application] I was persuaded by the need [for the school] and by [Bazemore’s] experience but the experience I’ve learned to suspect was not everything I thought it was initially, so I would be inclined to vote no this time although I’ve voted yes in the past,” Danielsen said.

The K-8 charter school Bazemore planned for northeastern and eastern Wake County would have enrolled primarily Black and Latinx students, whom she contends are not adequately served by the Wake County Public School System.

Opposition to the charter application was led by former state board member Amy White, who chaired the board’s Education Innovation and Charter Schools Committee. White cited the Bertie County’s school’s history of low-performance, failure to comply with fiscal requirements, failure to have enough certified teachers on campus, failure to have the required number of members on the governing board, and federal violations in the exceptional children program for her decision to vote against granting the charter.

Bazemore has acknowledged some shortcomings in Bertie County but challenged many of White’s claims. She has said White’s criticism is due to personal reasons.

White was a member of the Wake County Board of Education when Bazemore worked for the school district as an assistant principal and had a “legal situation” that resulted in Bazemore filing a sexual harassment claim against her boss, Bazemore shared with the former advisory board.

“She [White] would have been a part of that, and I just want to place that on the record with the hope that this is not a conflict of interest, but certainly with the hope that we will look into it,” Bazemore said.

The state board has 60 days from the date a notice of appeal is submitted to issue a written decision. At that point, the state board has the final decision on approval of charter applications, renewals, revocations and amendments.