Brookhaven gets news it hoped for on charter school

The City of Brookhaven has cleared a high hurdle in its goal of establishing a charter school.

City officials got notice Thursday that the State Charter Schools Commission staff is recommending that a petition to establish Brookhaven Innovation Academy be approved when the commission meets Aug. 26.

“Congratulations on reaching this stage,” says a letter from commission deputy director Gregg Stevens to Brookhaven city councilman Bates Mattison.

The technology-oriented academy could be a model for other new cities that are unsatisfied with county schools. Georgia’s constitution prohibits new school districts, leaving the numerous new cities established over the past decade with no control over education.

Brookhaven would not control this school, but it would have some say, with two city council members on the governing board. City support was crucial in the development of the proposed charter, and in fundraising.

A similar petition was denied last year, prompting revisions to the proposal.

The city was so closely tied to the proposal that commission staff encouraged a restructuring of the governing board to avoid a conflict of interest. Some worried the school, which has a statewide attendance zone, would try to enroll only city residents. The mayor stepped aside and the board was substantially expanded to include positions for people outside city government.

Even so, the city is closely tied to the proposed school. The city’s development authority, appointed by the mayor, is considering a $2.8 million building purchase and lease arrangement that would provide a home for the school. Start-up costs and facilities are a significant barrier for would-be charter schools, and this one has had support from successive mayors and the city council.

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