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Plans for Brookhaven charter school gain momentum
by LaTria Garnigan
August 12, 2014 10:35 AM | 3073 views | 1 1 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Brookhaven community is hoping for more school choice when it comes to educating children who reside within its borders.

As a result, the Brookhaven Innovation Academy has taken root and is awaiting a decision from the State Charter School Commission on the fate of the proposed school.

District 3 Brookhaven City Councilman Bates Mattison, who is chair of the academy’s governing council, said back when he first campaigned for office much of what he heard from concerned citizens was about education.

“People are talking about making a public school option so that they don’t have to go to private school or move out of the area,” said Mattison. “People want their representation to take education seriously.”

Mattison recalled that shortly after Brookhaven was formed, the county’s school district was put on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Gov. Nathan Deal suspended and replaced six school board members, a new superintendent was put in charge, the city of Dunwoody began talks of creating an independent school system and talks began about charter clusters.

During that time, Mattison said he met with a number of individuals regarding education — Nancy Jester, Dan Weber, Glenn Delk and District 40 State Sen. Fran Millar — to talk about what options were available.

“I talked with the mayor and council and we all felt that the city of Brookhaven should look at how we can improve education in the city because it has everything to do with economic development,” he said.

“It attracts employers and determines home property values.”

Funds were allocated in the 2013 city budget for education strategy development and then in 2014, Mattison said they executed a contract to create a nonprofit to be able to submit an application for an independent charter school, to provide a report with recommendations for improvement of Cross Keys High School — the only high school located in the city limits — and to provide a feasibility study addressing the concept of a Brookhaven City School System.

The academy’s governing council, which includes about 15 to 20 individuals, recently met with representatives from the state charter commission. Mattison said the council will begin to respond to whatever questions the commission has throughout the next few weeks and expects to hear back from the commission this month.

By the middle of September, he said the commission will make its recommendation to its board and will vote towards the end of September on approval or denial.

The academy aims to take on a science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — approach to education, but will also offer the arts and a dual language program as part of the curriculum. Mattison said the plan is to train students for 21st-century jobs. Though the city has been involved in setting up the nonprofit arm, Mattison said taxpayers will never be on the hook for tuition or anything regarding the academy. He added the funding will be handled exclusively from the state and we may have some federal funding.

The city’s role will be at arm’s length, and Mattison said the city’s role will be more of an oversight capacity. Mattison stressed they are not trying to create another private school, but is planning to mirror the diverse community that makes up Brookhaven.

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