Ivy Prep will not become a Gwinnett charter school after all

Ivy Preparatory Academy has declined the Gwinnett school board’s offer to grant the all-girl charter school a one-year contract because of concerns over funding and loss of autonomy.

Ivy Prep is one of 16 schools whose operating contracts were thrown out when the state Supreme Court ruled that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission was illegal. Some of those schools are seeking to remain open by asking local systems to “adopt” them, while others are appealing for state Board of Education approval.

The state route is the more surefire one, but it also brings less funding. If approved by the state Board of Education, the affected charters lose their local dollars, which account for about half their funding.

I am in Savannah for the Georgia School Boards Association conference so I did not attend the Gwinnett board meeting tonight, and am seeing two slightly different accounts of what led Gilbert to her decision.

According to the AJC:

Ivy Prep’s head of school, Nina Gilbert, made the decision, citing frustration with the process and negotiations with the Gwinnett school system. The charter school for 600 girls will instead apply to be a state charter special school, which will cut its budget in half.Gwinnett Schools’ per-pupil funding is $7,549. Gilbert said the district was offering her considerably less than that and less than she received as a school authorized by the defunct Georgia Charter Schools Commission.

“It is not our intention to reject your offer to accommodate us,” she said. “Even though we will receive less funding as a state charter special school, we believe the freedom and the autonomy to provide an instructional program that is both innovative and supportive we will have as a state school is the most promising path for our school and our students.”

The Georgia Charter Schools Association issued a statement about Gilbert’s decision that suggests she turned down Gwinnett’s offer because she didn’t want to have to reject non-Gwinnett students.

Under its previous status as a commission charter school, Ivy Prep could take students from the metro area, and receive the local funds from each sending system. It was not clear how the school could have continued to enroll students outside of Gwinnett if county taxpayers were footing half the bill.

So, this is what the charter schools association said:

“While we know that this was a tough decision and the road ahead for Ivy Prep will be tough, we support the school’s decision to seek the approval and oversight of the State Department of Education rather than Gwinnett County Board of Education,” said Georgia Charter Schools Association President and CEO Tony Roberts.

“Nina and her administrators, faculty, staff and board members refuse to turn their backs on the great many students from Dekalb and other jurisdictions that choose to come to Ivy Prep, supplying their own transportation, in order to receive a quality education. Also, she feared that the school would not have the autonomy that has allowed the high level of innovation and performance the school has fostered up to this point. The freedom to be innovative and creative with your instructional program is at the very soul of charter schools. We believe that the school’s decision reflects their overarching commitment to put the needs of its students at the center of the entire debate,” said Roberts.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

62 comments Add your comment

Jennifer

June 16th, 2011
11:48 pm

All three. I was at the meeting. All three is what was clearly stated in the meeting: funding, DeKalb students, and innovation. Gotta give the woman credit – my new favorite line for this night is a principled principal. Refreshing.

Proud

June 17th, 2011
12:03 am

I applaud Ms. Gilbert for making this decision for her students. I am sure it was a difficult decision, but the best one to maintain the vision and mission of the school. I am a Gwinnett County parent that is extremely unhappy with the county’s handling of this and many other situations. Parents need to stand up, stand strong and make sure that this county and all others are always doing the right things for students. We are taxpayers and should be allowed to have the best options and not just one cookie cutter option for our kids. Gwinnett is a very political district that has very little concern about its students, especially the poor and minority students. Their focus is on bench mark tests and CRCT testing. The outcome when the students graduate is that they will be able to pass CRCT tests and bench marks. Is this all that parents want for their children? It would be interesting to track how many of these students successfully enter and graduate from college. I bet the numbers are very low. Parents understand what is really going on in your districts. Learn to understand statistics, the criteria for “awards”, national standards, etc. Parents wake up!

Ivy Mom

June 17th, 2011
12:14 am

Taking the girls on a journey of principle and faith is indeed the “road less traveled” these days, but I’m sure it will be worth it in the end. The girls’ journey to college, to Ivy League colleges, will be enriched and nurtured with lessons in patience, creativity, and perseverence. It is so important for the sisterhood to live on, but only in its purest form.

Jennifer

June 17th, 2011
12:20 am

I can’t wait to read some of those college essays from Ivy Prep scholars. What a story and what a journey.

Public HS Teacher

June 17th, 2011
2:08 am

Just curious….. will her salary be cut in half as well?

Larry Major

June 17th, 2011
4:56 am

The local funding level for charter schools is determined by state law (to make it equitable to system schools) and is not open to negotiation.

The article mentions a system average of $7549 which – one more time – cannot be used, because it includes additional funding for special education which isn’t required by Ivy Prep’s student body. If Ivy Prep had the same percentage of special education students as GCPS, then this number would be very close – but they don’t and it isn’t. It will also be less than the Commission funding because the Commission over-funded Ivy Prep.

I certainly hope Gilbert wasn’t foolish enough to think Gwinnett taxpayers were going to fund kids from other counties. If an out of county family wants to enroll their kids in a Gwinnett school, they pay tuition just like they do at any other public school district.

Since the approval process was over, claiming frustration with the process sounds as invented as the other reasons.

Maybe you could have an investigative reporter follow Tony Roberts to the dentist’s office and interview him while under sodium pentothal to find out what they are really planning.

Dunwoody Mom

June 17th, 2011
6:48 am

I have to agree with GCSS on one point, it it not up to the taxpayers of Gwinnett County to pay for the education of DeKalb County students.

Good luck to Ivy Prep…I hope you make it.

Jerry Eads

June 17th, 2011
7:51 am

Time will tell. Except no one is likely to follow these kids down their academic and career paths to see if their experience DID make a difference. Fortunately, at least the Gwinnett students have an easy choice: they can attend Gwinnett public schools, time and again demonstrated to be rather quite good.

Indeed, the way the system is set up, Gwinnett taxpayers were not only getting stuck paying for Gwinnett kids in what was truthfully a school unapproved by our elected school board, they were paying for kids from another county, and the other county was getting a free ride. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Finally, it does seem to be the case that folks either love Alvin or hate him. Comes with the territory. The place seems to be one whole huge pile better run than the many other local examples in the news all the time.

Ivy prep deserves to be successful. As a private school.

It will be curious

June 17th, 2011
8:10 am

As a long time follower of the charter school movement, i have observed the GA Dept of Ed Charter School Division and State Board of Education consistently raise the bar on charter schools’ financial plans. I am unclear if Ivy Prep can even make it on the small amount of state dollars it will receive. I am also unclear if the state will consider grants etc as a way to bridge the gap if the grants haven’t yet been received.

The state has rejected charters for not having a solid financial plan. It will be interesting to follow Ivy Prep.

It will be curious

June 17th, 2011
8:12 am

Jerry

That is wrong. For the school year that was just concluded, DeKalb County had funds deducted from their state allotment that equaled about 80 students for Ivy Prep, 600 students for Peachtree Hope and 180ish for Museum School.

Gwinnett’s allotment was diminished only by the amount of students attending commission schools from Gwinnett.

GwinnettMom

June 17th, 2011
8:16 am

When it comes to spending of tax money, Ivy Prep is a better “deal” for Gwinnett tax payers than the GCPS “deals”.

K Teacher

June 17th, 2011
8:21 am

@ GwinnettMom — not if you don’t have a girl

ATL Resident/Educator

June 17th, 2011
8:22 am

This Charter School seems to be successful. The girls are getting the direction that is absent for so many African American girls. We focus so much on test scores in public schools and lose sight of the humanity that we must nurture if we are to survive as a species. Whatever…I hope they survive.

Hermione

June 17th, 2011
8:32 am

It will be curious: Thank you for clearing up that point about out of county students attending Ivy Prep.

GwinnettMom: I totally agree about the “deals”. What a ripoff for taxpayers!

Just Curious

June 17th, 2011
8:59 am

How many girls from Gwinnett County actually attend Ivy Prep?

CharterStarter

June 17th, 2011
9:02 am

The vitriol of folks like Larry and others obviously biased towards “the system,” with all its brilliance and outstanding results (I’m still looking for them), is hard to fathom when considering what was at stake with this lawsuit: a mere fraction of 1% of Gwinnett’s operating budget.

In fact, the amount Gwinnett paid to Ivy was dwarfed by the profit made by real estate developers selling land to the district.

Friends, charter schools are about choice and parental control. What can be more local? This lawsuit was about control, and certainly not about student achievement or the best path for all students. Unless one assumes that district control IS the best path for all students.

I do not make that assumption, clearly our legislature does not, Ms. Gilbert and her parents do not, and I’m pretty sure the Constitution (read properly, by people who can elect Supreme Court justices who can also read) does not.

I predict more success from Ivy Prep, more lawsuits taking taxpayer money from classrooms by Gwinnett, and, in the long run, choice for parents.

K Teacher

June 17th, 2011
9:03 am

The “deals” as you call them may not have been as good as we all thought but they are still a whole lot better than what other counties have paid. Don’t believe everything you read. The “reporter” on these deals seems to be very anti-GCPS; almost like he has a personal vendetta against them.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

June 17th, 2011
9:06 am

Does anybody on this blog think that the educrats in the GSBA aren’t frantically planning at their Savannah meeting about how to “cut off at the knees” efforts to develop state-chartered and -fully-funded public schools? But shouldn’t we expect educ-rats to covet “their” cheese?

catlady

June 17th, 2011
9:28 am

It would be great to see the state fully fund these charter schools for 5 years, using state and local dollars, as an experiment to see what might work. We know, for many kids, that school-board–led education doesn’t work. How about requiring that schools like Ivy Prep be funded by local systems for the purpose of experimenting (taking into account that charter schools tend to pull students of motivated parents). But, if something different done by the school results in higher achievement, the demonstration school would be worth it.

We cannot try new ideas without TRYING NEW IDEAS. Why are systems so afraid of that?

Paddy O

June 17th, 2011
10:52 am

it is remarkable how in love with themselves the people who contrive these charters schools are. I was under the impression that “special” schools were designed for specific populations – the deaf primarily. I don’t see the board approving her gender segregated school. Nina wants to be a private school with public funding – kind of like a elite welfare recipient – is she the new, modern, wealthy, welfare queen?

Paddy O

June 17th, 2011
10:54 am

charter – your validating the wasted funds on charter schools with other wasted funds? your making a tough row even tougher by throwing more rocks in your own way.

Inman Park

June 17th, 2011
10:55 am

The Gwinnett County Schools Board should be ashamed.

Paddy O

June 17th, 2011
10:56 am

curious – you think grants are fake money? the state is already overspending on the product that its public schools are currently producing. don’t see them throwing good money after bad.

Peachtree Corners

June 17th, 2011
10:56 am

Hey Paddy O, a little work on your grammar and spelling wouldn’t hurt.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

June 17th, 2011
11:05 am

catlady:

Educ-rats love “their” cheese.

GwinnettMom

June 17th, 2011
11:08 am

I don’t have an “Ivy Girl”. I think we all want “our money” to benefit the education of “our kids”. Alvin Wilbanks knows this and is a master of propaganda. He will find the right words for his GCPS puppet show. This time he seems to be “testing the waters” with “paying for DeKalb students” (even though they weren’t), and special education services. Both statements are just propaganda.

Dunwoody Mom

June 17th, 2011
11:19 am

@GwinnettMom – you’re right in that GCPS wasn’t paying for DeKalb students prior to the Supreme Court ruling – DeKalb County was paying for those students to go to Ivy. But since the ruling, GCPS would be paying for the DeKalb County students to attend Ivy League – that was the point.

CharterStarter

June 17th, 2011
1:19 pm

Maureen, AJC buried the lead. The REAL story (from later in the article) is that:

Gwinnett schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks advised the board to consider Ivy Prep’s petition anyway. McClure agreed, saying they had been working with the school in good faith. The one-year charter approval was passed unanimously, leaving some in the audience confused. The school can be a Gwinnett County charter if it decides to accept but McClure told the group, “you don’t have to accept it.”

NOW, Gwinnett can take the “high road” re: PR and say “We DID approve you!” And legally, it is now more problematic for the state to approve Ivy as a state chartered school (ie, refusing local funds and being accountable only to the state) when Ivy has been approved locally. Traditionally, only schools that have been denied locally have sought state chartered school approval. The SBOE may not know how to proceed!

Paddy O

June 17th, 2011
4:05 pm

peachtree – a little less anal would’nt hurt either.

EnoughAlready

June 17th, 2011
4:40 pm

You get out of school, what you put into it; so for all of you who believe that the GCPS is not providing an excellent education for Gwinnett students (get out of denial).

If a community school is suffering in Gwinnett, it’s because the families in the area are not preparing their children for success. Once the community starts to go down hill, the schools in the area go down hill (FAST).

IVY Prep doesn’t do a better job in education, they just receive children who actually have parents who try to prepare them for success. If every community had those types of parents, we wouldn’t need charter schools. I suggest Nina Gilbert start a Charter Prep for Parents; it is them who needs an education.

East Cobb Parent

June 17th, 2011
4:57 pm

If Ivy Prep can provide some sort of measurable success utilizing only the state funding then local school boards can look forward to significant cuts in their budgets. The local boards may have won the battle but may lose the war.

Another Gwinnett Mom

June 17th, 2011
7:39 pm

Why not take Gwinnett out of the equation and go to a more friendly local school board like Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, etc? Move the location of the school to another county and let’s see what they do. Nina worked for Gwinnett Schools for many years, she knew what she was getting into. I don’t know why she didn’t open in another county.

lets just wait and see

June 17th, 2011
9:19 pm

I just hope that Nina Gilbert didn’t turn down the bird in the hand for the elusive 2 in the bush. There is no county that will be able to fund students outside of the county. So that statement about worrying about her Dekalb county girls seems like a statement for the people and not the true issue she had with the approved charter in Gwinnett County.. So I hope it works out for her with the state becasue if it doesn’t she turned down a sure thing. As for the people who say that GCPS is a bad school district. I whole heartedly disagree. I had a child that attended Ivy Prep and made the easy choice to leave Ivy and take my child back to GCPS. I have always been a fully engaged parent and my daughter has always succeeded no matter where she went.

Tony

June 17th, 2011
11:24 pm

“But Ivy Prep Head of School Nina Gilbert said at a news conference Friday the school was initially offered $4,300 per student in funding when the district average is $7,549.” quoted from article in AJC online.

Average per pupil funding includes the students with the most severe disabilities. Will Ivy Prep serve students with the most severe disabilities?

Jennifer

June 17th, 2011
11:27 pm

DeKalb and other counties have always paid for their residents at Ivy Prep, GCPS has never paid for them. The current issue is that GCPS refused to particpate in the necessary MOU between the counties for the reimbursement under the current agreement.

Committed Educator

June 17th, 2011
11:34 pm

I agree with Charterstarter. If the state rule is that the charter school must be denied by the local in order to apply for State Special School funding, I wonder how the state will handle Ivy’s application for state funding. In all probability, they will create a new rule to accommodate the needs of Ivy Prep.

Committed Educator

June 17th, 2011
11:35 pm

In regards to creativity and innovation, there are classrooms and schools throughout our state that educate children in environments that embrace learning. I know I have often had 100% of my students pass the CRCT in all subject areas and ensure that creativity and innovation is evident throughout the instructional day. Many of my colleagues are also successful in their educational settings. We are traditional public schools and all we seem to get is a bum rap. Unfortunately, we do not have the same kind of support from the state. Perhaps the state needs to look around and observe what is really happening in many schools and give us the kind of support given for charter schools. By the way, my parental involvement is high each year….So if the children succeed, the parents are involved, and I enjoy each day of teaching, what is so terrible about many of our traditional public schools?

Jennifer

June 17th, 2011
11:50 pm

I am so tired of hearing about the $$ being different for GCPS and scapegoating saying special education students and LEM students are skewing the data. So here is the real data – how about someone trying to explain this ? Only three charters in GCPS – look at the data.

2008-2009 Gwinnett Math and Science : 6 special ed students (1.9%) 0 LEM Students : per student FTE for charter $9,523 (High School)
2009-2010 New Life Academy: 4 special educaiton students (1.0%) 2% LEM Students: per student FTE for charter $6,736 (Elementary School)
2009-2010 Ivy Prep Academy: 15 special education students (5.2%)13 LEM Students: per student FTI for charter PROPOSED $4300. (Middle & High School)

Gwinnettian

June 18th, 2011
12:24 am

And GMGST offers transportation on GCPS buses. Sweet deal for a charter school in GCPS, New Life doesn’t. But what do I know, maybe that bus transportation is not paid for by GCPS.

Suwanee

June 18th, 2011
1:28 am

Lets not forget that there are already MANY Dekalb students that are already attending GCPS illegally. So in reality Gwinnett taxpayers are already being taken advantage of – regardless of the Ivy Prep debacle.

As someone who (still) pays very high property taxes in Gwinnett and has 3 caucasion boys that attend GCPS, I am glad the “principled principal” turned the deal down. Money doesn’t make a school successful, parental involvement and support is the key.

Motherof two

June 18th, 2011
3:51 pm

I took a class led by the principal. And she is no joke, smart, caring and wants what is best for her scholars. What we should be discussing, is how we will sow into the lives of this girls, regardless of what county they are from.

Larry Major

June 19th, 2011
1:23 am

Jennifer,

I don’t know about those actual dollar amounts, but relatively, they look correct. What is not correct is the percent of special education funding for GSMST.

Currently, over 70% of GSMST students qualify for SPED CAT VI (gifted) funding. The years you listed were different for this school, but even their first year it was over 25%.

The reason New Life is significantly over the system average is not due to special education enrollment, but because of the grades involved. The Base (lowest) funding unit is for high school regular education. The vast majority of New Life students are in kindergarten, the highest funded grade level, and grades 1-3, the second highest funded grade level.

Ivy Prep will be less than the system average because middle grade funding is only slightly more than the Base and GCPS has something like 15% SPED enrollment compared to Ivy Prep’s 5%.

Another funding difference you’ll run into is the T&E factor, which is based on the exact teachers employed at a given school. This is getting pretty far into the guts of QBE funding and is likely of no interest to the general public, but a couple of us did discuss this in detail on another message board. If you’re interested in reading it, let me know and I’ll go back and find it.

Jennifer

June 19th, 2011
7:10 am

Larry Major – yes please, send me the message board link. You are right on the gifted # for GSMST, and the other two statements are accurate as well -but the GCPS sped average is only 10%. The question is whether the total school is funded properly with State AND local $$ per FTE. I would be interested to see a discussion on the local dollar component which is supposed to be the same. I would also like to see a discussion of why we are funding transportation for GMGST (with state or local $$) when we are not funding transportation for New Life or Ivy or the Alternative Education schools.

Jennifer

June 19th, 2011
7:16 am

One more question: the Gwinnett portion for local property tax contribution $$ says $3589 per FTE…..is there anywhere that this is being discussed ?

Jennifer

June 19th, 2011
8:17 am

I want to see all the numbers laid out – NLA is 6700 and it is K-5. While I know K and elementary is higher funded – it can’t possibly be 50% + higher per FTE. Something doesn’t pass the smell test for me on the total dollars. I will go back and check, but I don’t think a traditional elemntary school is being funded 50% higher per FTE than a traditional middle school…..

Jennifer

June 19th, 2011
8:24 am

Nope I just did a spot comparision check between GCPS traditional elementary and traditional middle – no 50% difference per FTE – with all things being relative (sped/gifted/ell). If I were Ivy I would want to see the local and state numbers laid out with several charter and traditional school comparisions side by side. If GCPS was not willing to do that then I wouldn’t have signed a deal either. My two cents.

Committed Educator

June 19th, 2011
9:50 am

@ Maureen…I am still curious as to how Ivy Prep will get approved as a state special charter school when they have NOT been denied by the local. Will the rules get changed to accommodate this school? Maureen, can you assist with this? It will be quite interesting to see how the state handles this legally.

Columbia Grad

June 19th, 2011
10:26 am

@Committed Educator: I got curious and went to the State DOE to look up how Ivy would get a charter from the state when Gwinnett offered one. Here’s what I found found from the GDOE website:

“A State Chartered Special School is a public school that operates according to the terms of a charter, or contract, that has been approved by the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education may approve a State Chartered Special School if a charter has been denied by a local board of education, mediation has not been successful, and the charter petition meets the requirements of a State Chartered Special School described in the Charter Schools Act of 1998 and the State Board of Education Charter Schools Rule 160-4-9-.04.”

I think the “mediation has not been successful” part may apply.

Committed Educator

June 19th, 2011
11:34 am

@Columbia Grad….sounds reasonable. Thanks so much….

Maureen Downey

June 19th, 2011
12:23 pm

@Committed, Ivy Prep was denied when it first applied so I am assuming that it can fall back on that. The two schools that have already won approval as state charters also had earlier denials, which I think they also were able to use.
Maureen