With a ruling expected in September on whether a public charter school will be given the green light to operate in eastern Tallahatchie County, a review of the application filed by those seeking the new educational institution offers a plethora of background information.
The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, the agency created by the Mississippi Legislature in 2016 to oversee the charter school process in the state, this year received 10 applications from nonprofit entities pursuing authority to create new charter schools that would begin operations during the 2023-2024 school year or later.
One of the applicants was Resilience Development Corporation (RDA), a company with both Mississippi and Tennessee ties which submitted an 874-page package featuring an application and proposal with supporting documents, seeking approval to operate two charter schools under a single charter.
The proposed schools are:
» Resilience Academy of Teaching Excellence-East Tallahatchie, which would operate within the boundaries of the East Tallahatchie School District that has central offices and three school campuses in Charleston
» Resilience Academy of Teaching Excellence-North Bolivar, which would function within the North Bolivar Consolidated School District that is headquartered in Mound Bayou and operates schools at Duncan, Mound Bayou and Shelby
Both schools, which could open as soon as fall 2023, would serve students from kindergarten through the fifth grade in Bolivar and Tallahatchie counties and start out with up to 80 students (North Bolivar would be 60) while expanding over a period of five years to a projected maximum enrollment of 360. Kindergarten and first grade would come online in the first year, second grade would be added in the second year, third grade in the third and so on.
In mid-July, after having reviewed documents submitted by the applicants, the Authorizer Board ruled that the credentials and proposals of five of the applicants, including Resilience, were "adequate" and voted to allow them to advance to the third stage of the process.
Next, independent evaluators are to review the list of finalists and offer recommendations to the board, which will issue a decision on who is in and who is out sometime in September.
Part of the package submitted to the state board by RDA features questionnaires, purportedly of residents of both districts — some possibly educators, although much of the identifying information is redacted — who express support for development of charter schools in these locations.
Other attachments are letters written and/or signed by elected officials, business leaders and others in the two counties indicating their backing of a charter school effort.
"RATE leadership through its outreach to the North Bolivar and East Tallahatchie communities is confident in not only the right of parents to have an additional option but also the ability of the school to present itself as an attractive choice," the applicant noted as one of its points of summation.
Charter schools are free public schools that operate as schools of choice. They are exempt from significant state and local regulations related to operation and management. They report to the state Authorizer Board rather than to a local school board. Administrators and teachers of charter schools have more flexibility in student instruction and other operations.
Charter schools are funded by local school districts based on enrollment.
The National Charter School Resource Center and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers offer much more information about the history, progress and workings of charter schools throughout the United States.