By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
With the New Millennium Charter School approaching $50,000 in debt, Madison County School Board member Kenny Hall stated that New Millennium, serving Kindergarten through second grade students, had failed to meet the standards of fiscal management and made a motion to pull the school’s charter. With a motion and a second, the issue was opened up to discussion.
School board member VeEtta Hagan pointed out that the school had opened at a great disadvantage compared to the James Madison Preparatory High School, the district’s other charter school, which Hagan said was helped by significant donations from many people. The building that New Millennium was using had not been nearly as well-maintained and needed a lot more work.
“Nobody gave us anything,” said Diamond Jones, a member of the New Millennium Board of Directors. Jones also alluded to the state of disrepair she had seen when she had gone out before the school opened to help paint, and added that New Millennium had also met with a lot of resistance from the Central School. She spoke of parents receiving phone calls and being told “untruths” about the school being doomed to failure. The parents were urged to put their kids back in Central.
“We started out with great numbers,” said Jones. With about 50 students, the school had grant money and FTE money for two full-time teachers, one music teacher, and paraprofessionals, but by the end of the school’s first year, that number had been cut to 27 students. Jones believed that the “scare calls” prompted many parents to take their kids out of the school.
“Any student going there now would say ‘give the school a second chance,’” said Jones. “They couldn’t thrive at the Central School with the bigger classes.”
“It’s a fiscal mess,” Hall repeated.
“In business, you always have a loss in the first or second year,” said Hagan. “Give them another chance.”
“They broke the contract,” said Hall.
“Too many other contracts have been broken and given a second chance,” Hagan replied. “I think this is personal.”
Hall protested that he liked “Doc Haynes” (Dr. Jerri Haynes, who spearheaded New Millennium) and that he had voted in favor of the new charter school last year; however, he had also told Haynes that he wouldn’t hesitate to vote to pull the charter if the school failed to meet mandated standards by the end of the first year.
Hagan urged the board not to make such a drastic decision, but to try other things first, such as speaking with the vendors and other people doing business with the school.
“We’ve put a lot into this school,” said Jones. “Every student from last year is coming back this year.” Additionally, there were four or five more who wanted to enroll, bringing the total number of students up to about 30. The school needed to have 50 students enrolled by June 30 or lose funding, and there was a question of whether or not the staff could find enough students to reach that total in the next few days.
Hagan suggested they could cut down on the number of paraprofessionals “Let’s at least give them a second year.”
“We asked Dr. Haynes to come in before to address these issues and she didn’t,” said Hall. “I supported her, but here we are.”
The board voted 3-2 to rescind the charter, with Karen Pickles and VeEtta Hagan casting the dissenting votes.
The board must notify the school immediately, and the school has 14 days in which to request a hearing. If the school does not do so within those 14 days, the action is over and the charter is revoked. If it requests a hearing, the school district must set one up within 60 days.