Liz McCormick Published

Charter School Forum Held In Jefferson County As State Considers 7 Proposals

Chad Carr ACCEL Schools.jpg

Residents in Jefferson County listened this week to a proposal from a for-profit charter school company with eyes on opening in the Eastern Panhandle.

The meeting, held in Charles Town, marked the fourth public forum hosted by the West Virginia Professional Charter School Board.

Those who attended learned more about the Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy, one of five proposed brick-and-mortar schools. Two other proposals before the board would be for virtual schools.

The Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy would be a public charter school run by a for-profit education service provider called ACCEL Schools, based in Ohio. The organization has more than 120 schools worldwide. Jefferson’s school would be overseen by a local board of volunteers in the Eastern Panhandle, and would serve students from Jefferson and Berkeley counties.

Chad Carr, executive vice president of ACCEL Schools, has been working in education for 25 years and in charter schools for 15. Carr took questions Monday night for two hours. He described ACCEL Schools as focused on academic achievement, competitiveness, innovation and hiring teachers with education degrees from accredited universities.

Carr said ACCEL looks for places where there’s need for improvement, strong community support and access to population. He said he’s been impressed with West Virginia.

“West Virginia did their homework, because they didn’t want to make the mistakes that other states have made by bringing in bad character educational management companies,” he said of the state’s foray into charter schools.

ACCEL Schools is also seeking to open a brick-and-mortar charter school in Nitro.

About two-dozen residents from the local area attended the meeting, including Cara Jeffries, a sixth grade science teacher at Harpers Ferry Middle School. Jeffries said as a public school teacher she doesn’t see charter schools as a threat.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for parents to have an option. It is a great way to bring a challenge and competition,” she said.

The state has seen pushback to the new charter school applications. A lawsuit was filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court challenging the constitutionality of the state’s charter law, because it allows for charters to open without approval from local voters.

The West Virginia Professional Charter School Board hopes to complete reviews of all seven charter school applications by November.