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May 14,2009

On May 5, Henderson Collegiate Charter School hopefuls were interviewed by the Leadership for Innovation Committee of the North Carolina State Board of Education. Now begins the long wait to see if the committee will recommend the application and if the SBE will approve it.

Eric Sanchez and Carice Cantelupe led a delegation of board members, students and parents to Raleigh for the interview. They made a 20-minute presentation. Sanchez and Cantelupe, five board members, two students and a parent spoke to the committee. Also present were some members of SBE and a representative from the Department of Public Instruction.

The proposed school would focus on serving fourth- through eighth-grade students who are at risk of underachieving.

The students in the delegation live in Henderson but make the hour-plus trip to Gaston each day to attend Gaston Preparatory School. That school features a longer school day, a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, and a strong culture of achievement to help students improve their academic performance. The students told the committee that a similar school in Vance County would be an asset.

The parent explained why he was willing to send his child as far away as Gaston to be educated. Providing that kind of education without the long two-way ride would be a major benefit for him and other families.

Sanchez said the committee had a number of questions: How would the school be similar to and different from Gaston Preparatory School? How would technology be used? What prospects did the group have for obtaining facilities?

A board member answered that last question, saying that they were making contacts to explore possibilities of leasing and renovating space. Sanchez and Cantelupe hope to locate the school within a half mile of downtown Henderson to make it easily accessible for students without transportation, but nothing can be finalized until the school is approved by SBE.

Sanchez says he was encouraged by the experience. The presentation went according to plan and he feels that it was well received by the committee.

Now he and Cantelupe can only wait. The committee is expected to make a recommendation to SBE in June. SBE will then make a final decision in July. If Henderson Collegiate School is approved, the hard work will begin then.

While Sanchez, Cantelupe and board members have invested a great deal of themselves — as well as time — in preparing the application, even more will be invested in fleshing out that basic plan. Obtaining space for classrooms, renovating it, recruiting staff and laying out the instructional program will take place during the 2009-2010 school year.

Approval of those detailed plans would be subject to approval by the SBE in the summer of 2010. The school would then open in the fall of 2010 with 100 fourth graders. After that, a grade would be added each year until the school includes grades 4 through 8.

The Vance group is one of six vying for a charter school.

North Carolina has a limit of 100 charter schools statewide, so new proposals are only considered when schools that were already in business are closed. Three closures have created opportunities upon which Henderson Collegiate’s supporters hope to capitalize.

A charter school is a publicly funded school that operates under a private, nonprofit board rather than under the authority of the local board of education. Charter schools are allowed to operate under a locally tailored set of rules rather than the more rigid structure that traditional public schools must follow.

If the Vance group is successful, there will be two charter schools in the county. The other is Vance Charter, located in the Henderson Mall on Dabney Drive. The school serves grades K through 8.

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