Parents voted overwhelmingly to renew the charter for Peachtree Charter Middle School in DeKalb Feb. 5.
The parents of the students there had to vote three times — an initial vote last summer did not have enough show up to vote; a second vote in the fall was questioned because ballots were taken out of an unsecured ballot box and counted and sorted during the process.
The charter school finally did everything by the book and voted 572-3 to renew the school’s charter.
The rule requiring a secret ballot by parents applies to conversion charter schools, traditional public schools that made the switch to charters. It was part of the original charter law in 1998, intended to ensure everyone had a say in the way a school was functioning and that once renewal was on the table, teachers and parents had a say in where the school was headed.
The number of conversion charters is shrinking, mostly due to changes that give local school districts more freedom from state mandates on pay scales, teacher certification and in-seat time for students in return for higher student performance. That kind of freedom was what parents sought in turning traditional school into charter schools. Now, schools can maintain more individuality of their teaching practices while under district control.
At the height of the conversion charter school movement, dozens existed across the state. Just 18 remain, with five of those — Chamblee Charter High School, Peachtree, Chesnut Charter Elementary School, Kingley Charter Elementary School and Smoke Rise Elementary School — in DeKalb County.