Neil J Serdinsky: Three New Charter Schools Planned in Iredell, North Carolina

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Charter school board member, Neil Serdinsky of Cornelius, NC said the proposed charter was using A.B. Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh as a model.

The charter school movement appears to officially be grabbing hold locally, as three organizations submitted applications this week with the state to open non-traditional public schools in Iredell County in August 2015.

According to Neil J. Serdinsky, the three proposed charter schools, which must still pass several rounds of approval from the state, are: Mooresville Charter Academy, owned by Charter Schools USA, which also opened Langtree Charter Academy in Mooresville in August; Springs Academy, a school at Barium Springs Home for Children for at-risk children; and Lake Academy, which is being proposed by a parent-run group and modeled after a Raleigh elementary school.

There are currently four charter schools in Iredell County: American Renaissance School and Success Institute Charter School in Statesville, and Pine Lake Preparatory and Langtree Charter in Mooresville. Of the proposed charters, only Springs Academy has chosen a location. Mooresville Charter Academy and Lake Academy are still in the site selection process. Mooresville is the likely home for both.

Colleen Reynolds, public relations representative for Charter Schools USA, said the company wanted to open another charter school in Iredell County because of the popularity of Langtree Charter.

“We experienced tremendous demand when we opened our school in Mooresville, with more than 800 students on a waiting list,” Reynolds said in an email.

John Koppelmeyer, president of Barium Springs Home for Children, said Springs Academy would improve the children’s home's current education offerings, which was being run like an under-funded private school. Transitioning to a charter school will allow Barium Springs' school to bring in more state funding. The focus will stay the same, though. The initial goal is just to serve the students who live on campus.

“We felt like through the charter school process we have the ability to provide a better education for them,” said Koppelmeyer.

Neil Serdinsky is a board member for Lake Academy, said the proposed charter was using A.B. Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh as a model. A.B. Combs uses the principles of author Dr. Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” combined with allowing students to set their own academic goals, to promote leadership.

“What it really allows them to do is focus on things that they do well versus the things that they do not do well,” said Serdinsky.

The three proposed charter schools all have different grade levels they would initially serve. Mooresville Charter would open up as K-6, and then expand to K-8. Initial enrollment would be 661, eventually growing to 1,145 students. Springs Academy would serve all grades, with a cap at 150 students. Lake Academy would begin K-4 with around 450 students, and grow to K-8 and 900 students.

The charter schools will have a large impact on the public schools in the county as well. This past summer, Iredell-Statesville Schools lost 328 students to charter schools, and a total of $1.3 million, largely in personnel as many teacher and teacher assistant positions were no longer funded by the state because enrollment was down.

In the summer of 2011, the General Assembly lifted a cap of 100 on the number of charter schools allowed in the state. There are now 127 charter schools in North Carolina, with an additional 26 potentially opening in August 2014.

Serdinsky and Reynolds agree.

“Many children thrive in district schools and many do not,” Reynolds said. “As a charter school, we have flexible programs that allow us to quickly adapt to the unique needs of the school.”

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Neil J Serdinsky
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