Although the establishment of a full charter school by Peter’s Rock Temple Church of God in Christ is unlikely, the organization may operate a preschool, like many other religious and nonreligious organizations, without local school board approval.
The church, under the moniker of the Successfully Overcoming Academic Restraints (SOAR) Institute, previously submitted a letter of intent to the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board to open a charter school for both city and county students at its 223 Martin Luther King Blvd. location in Starkville.
According to the letter, the school would open in the 2016-2017 academic year and serve about 65 students. By 2020, SOAR would serve approximately 150 students from pre-K to sixth grade, the letter states.
In order for the MCSAB to authorize any charter school in an A-, B- or C-rated district, a local school board must first vote to endorse the application.
A copy of SOAR’s letter of intent to the local school board, however, seeks permission solely to operate a preschool for 60 students.
Since schools do not receive funding from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program for prekindergarten and any organization may operate preschools without having to be classified as a charter school, the school board took no action on the matter.
Charter schools are publically funded and do not charge tuition. They are run by private groups that agree to meet certain standards in exchange for less regulation.
Even though the Oktibbeha County School District remains under state conservatorship, it is unlikely SOAR’s application will receive state approval since both OCSD and SSD received C designations from the Mississippi Department of Education in October.
OCSD will merge with SSD in July, and the city school board and superintendent, Lewis Holloway will run the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District.
The group’s letter of intent to MCASB shows board members for the proposed charter school include Michael Davis, a Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper; Brian Dorsey; Lannell Shields, a Mississippi State University call center representative; Andrea Temple; and Linda Young, who manages the Woodforest Bank within Wal-Mart.
Dorsey is listed as an ICT teacher at Armstrong Middle School, while Temple is West Oktibbeha County Elementary School’s principal. Young is listed as SOAR’s coordinator within its letter to the school board.
The letter also states Pamela and Robyn Conerly, the director and co-director of the Peter’s Rock After-School program, would serve as SOAR Institute staff members.
“Our mission is to provide a well-rounded and challenging educational environment that enhances students, their families and the community,” Pamela Conerly told The Dispatch last week. “Not only do we plan to produce students who SOAR in academics, but also in character, community and creativity.”
Two charter schools, both located in the Jackson area, have been approved since the Mississippi Charter Schools Act passed in 2013.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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