Gwinnett willing to work with Ivy Prep to keep charter school alive. Lawmakers meet Friday.

The 16 commission charter schools are scrambling to win local approval now that the state high court has ruled against them. (AJC photo)

The 16 commission charter schools are scrambling to win local approval now that the state high court has ruled against them. (AJC photo)

Despite initial pessimism from some charter school advocates, both the Cherokee and Gwinnett boards of education appear open to two  charter schools whose futures were jeopardized by a recent Georgia Supreme Court decision.

The high court ruled that a state commission created by the Legislature in 2008 could not approve charter schools over the objections of the local boards. The commission had approved 16 such schools, most of which now must be legitimatized by their local boards to continue to operate. (There are also statewide virtual schools in the mix, and their fate remains unclear.)

The charter schools and the state are asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider its 4-3 vote, but legal experts say that is unlikely. In any case, the affected charters are not taking any chances and are pleading their cases to their local boards.

In the meantime, a newly formed legislative subcommittee meets 10 a.m. Friday at the Capitol — Room 450 — to address the court ruling. The meeting was called by Senate education chairman Fran Millar of DeKalb and is open to the public.

“We are optimistic that proactive steps taken by this committee will help to protect the valuable education we offer our youth in Georgia. By examining short and long-term solutions, we hope to answer the many questions stakeholders have and return confidence to families and students affect by this court decision,” said  Millar in a formal statement. “We encourage our constituents, and those involved, to reach out to us with solutions and ideas on how to overcome this unnecessary barrier and determine the best route for excellence in education across Georgia.”

Cherokee appears willing to work with Cherokee Charter Academy, which was due to open in the fall and has to quickly finalize its application to the county board to keep that schedule.

And in a good sign for Ivy Preparatory Academy,  Gwinnett schools just sent out this notice:

From Gwinnett County Schools:

Discussion continued today between Gwinnett County Public Schools and representatives of Ivy Preparatory Academy regarding the status of the all-girls charter school for the 2011-2012 school year.

“School district staff met again today with the appropriate people representing Ivy Preparatory Academy to discuss options for allowing the school to continue operations in the upcoming school year. I feel optimistic at this point that we will be able to work out an agreement that will be in the best interest of the students involved,” said CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. He added that he anticipates the two parties will continue to meet as needed to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

The meetings and discussions have focused on Ivy Preparatory Academy’s current charter contract and how it might be amended to a start-up charter school petition to present to the Gwinnett County Board of Education for consideration.

School district staff members present for today’s meeting were Associate Superintendent for School Leadership and Operational Support Dr. Steve Flynt, Director of Program Support Linda Mitchell and Governmental Liaison David McCleskey. Representing Ivy Preparatory Academy were Governing Board Chairman Monica Teasley, Board Vice Chairman Christopher Kunney and legal counsel Judson Turner and Rob Fortson. Ivy Preparatory Academy Head of School Nina Gilbert participated by phone.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

18 comments Add your comment

Find the root of the problem

June 1st, 2011
3:22 pm

If the primary issue was it being a single gender academy then Gwinnett should make an exception. I do not believe making it coed should be an option.

Ex APS Parent

June 1st, 2011
4:02 pm

The irony in this is that Ivy Prep was the reason the initial lawsuit was filed by Gwinnett County Schools. The other school districts which joined the GCSS in the lawsuit probably would not have sued had it not been for Gwinnett. Now the Gwinnett school, Ivy Prep, is likely to be approved locally.


June 1st, 2011
4:23 pm

Could someone explain the difference between Charter and Magnet schools to me?


June 1st, 2011
4:39 pm

What is Fran Miller’s definition of “proactive”???


June 1st, 2011
4:47 pm

If it were only that simple . . .

Magnets are schools run by city/county school systems, generally with a specific ‘theme’ (some of th, sometimes, are called ‘theme schools’–or not–see how simple this is?).

Charters come in many flavors, but have in common that they have a Board of Directors running them rather than being directly run by the city/county school system:
–conversion charters, which are city/county schools converted to charter status
–start-up charters, which are initiated generally by concerned community members/parents
–corporate charters, run by for-profit companies. As yet there are fortunately few of these in GA, but their very existence is pushing the move to standardize the regulations for chartering in a direction that, no surprise, favors the corporate over the community start-up/conversion
–commission charters, like Ivy prep, Museum School, and others that often were unable to get a city/county charter but did get one from the state–the law allowing which got struck down last month. Other than sometimes having blatantly restrictive admissions policies, these last are run by a Board much like the other start-up charters, except they reported to the state (which chartered them) rather than to the city/county–but the city/county was required to help support them financially.

Oh, and in some places the entire school system is chartered.

I think I left out one or more categories of charter, but the essential charter-magnet difference is in being run directly by the school board and in being administered by a Board of Directors that reports to the school board. Oh, and charters generally get about 82 cents on the dollar perstudent compared to the ‘mainline’ schools, including magnets.

And before someone says different–charters have to abide by all the same spoecial ed, ESOL, etc. rules as other public schools because CHARTERS ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.


June 1st, 2011
5:01 pm

WHAT is a CEO/Superintendent???!!

EX APS parent: not until they suck everything special out of Ivy Prep.

Write Your Board Members

June 1st, 2011
6:16 pm

I believe there are 80 students from DeKalb that are enrolled at Ivy Prep. I suspect that they will have to return to their own communities if IP becomes a GC charter school.


June 1st, 2011
8:30 pm

Jarvis – one main distinction between charters and magnets is that charters must have open enrollment and may Not have selection criteria. Magnets may select their clientele via selection criteria.


June 1st, 2011
9:09 pm

Gwinnett will have its cake and eat it too. We are against your charter but for ours!

Charters are the opiates of the elites and leaves the masses in dirt!


June 1st, 2011
9:29 pm

Yeah, ICS is just choking with elites:Title 1, immigrants, refugees, . . .

Dunwoody Mom

June 2nd, 2011
7:49 am

Hopefully, Ivy Prep and GCSS can come to some sort of agreement. Personally, I have no problem with separate gender schools as long as the same offerings are applied to both.

K Teacher

June 2nd, 2011
9:21 am

As a parent and teacher in GCPS, I have no problem with Ivy Prep. It’s a very good school. My problem is the tax money that is given to them (taken away from county schools) when not all of their students are from Gwinnett Co. If students from other counties want to attend then they should have to pay otherwise they should find a school in their county.


June 2nd, 2011
4:07 pm

We all know that Ivy Prep should have been approved three years ago. It is likely that the risk of a court reversal or a full blown constitutional amendment thrust is what is bringing both Cherokee and Gwinnett to the table now.

Without an independent commission in place, what incentives are there for districts can be put in place to not pass over another Ivy Prep ? The single gender excuse was just that.- an excuse. There was a Title IX letter to Gwinnett years ago and we all know that risk of litigation is hardly anything our Superintendent fears.

So, how can the process be made so transparent that the districts act in good faith – with each and every petitioner ? Maybe add a citizens council recommendation by law to the charter approval process ?


June 2nd, 2011
7:46 pm

K Teacher, I believe all public school districts have policies regarding out of district students attending their schools, with payments specified. This is provided as a benefit to teachers that live it other districts yet bring their children to the district where they teach. In other words, it should not be a problem for Ivy Prep accepting students from other districts as long as the rules are transparent and clearly mentioned up front.


June 2nd, 2011
11:42 pm

@Politics: charters are not the opiate of the elites; that would be magnet schools, with their enrollment criteria and themes. Charters may not have enrollment preferences or admissions applications that sort people by ability. They must take all comers, just like any traditional public school. And they do, and they serve them very well.

If you look at the enrollment of the 8 existing Commission charter schools, they are overwhelmingly African-American (like 70%) and urban. And doing very well, thank you…

IVY Prep Mom

June 4th, 2011
9:24 pm

My daughter just finished her first year at IVY Prep, (7th grade) and yes we are from Dekalb County. I drive 45 mins each way every day to take my daughter to school and pick her up. I do this because I know that she is getting what she should have gotten in a Dekalb County Middle school. My daughter has always been on the honor roll her entire life and her test scores are always above her grade level. She was NOT being challenged in Dekalb county, so we found another option for our daughter. The test scores are great at IVY Prep…. Dekalb, they are behind. My daughter thinks outside the box at IVY prep. She has a writing class, Literature class, 2 math classes, along with science, social studies, and took Mandarin. She loved it, she was getting what she needed and her mind was expanding. If I have to drive to the end of the earth to make sure my daughter receives the education she deserves, then so be it. I now have a 5th grader (son) at a Theme school in Dekalb and he will not attend another Dekalb county school (if it is not Theme) I need a IVY prep boys school for him!!!! As a society we are failing our children in education. God blessed us with them and it is our job as parents that we do not fail them. IVY prep reinforces what we teach at home, COLLEGE BOUND, FOCUSED, DETERMINED, SUCCESSFUL YOUNG LADIES.

The Takeover

June 5th, 2011
9:15 am

GCPS will take over Ivy Prep, bring in all of their teachers, and replace the leadership. Only GCPS students will allowed to attend. Let’s see how this plays out!


June 6th, 2011
2:33 pm

i TRULY support Ivy Prep & education is key to bring success and as parents we as are failing to do that.I like that Ivy Prep wears uniforms,strict conduct policy, and your daughter will learn more things than ever before.