Future for Peachtree Hope Charter School looks bleak

The futures of more than 600 children will hang in the balance Monday evening when the DeKalb County School System considers whether Peachtree Hope Charter School should continue to exist, and the school's chances look bleak, according to interviews with DeKalb officials.

The charter school's board failed to submit a complete application by the June 27 deadline, DeKalb deputy chief superintendent Bob Moseley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday. The school had less than two weeks to submit an application that usually takes months to prepare.

"It was not enough time, and it was incomplete," Moseley said, explaining that the application failed to meet state criteria in several areas, including "big things like budget, curriculum and assessment standards."

Approval is up to the county school board, but the state criteria are clear and approval is unlikely if they are not met, said two board members who were told of Moseley's comments.

"It's futile for us to approve it without it meeting the state standards," board chairman Tom Bowen said. The charter application would ultimately be nixed by the state if it didn't meet the standards, he said.

Said fellow board member Jesse "Jay" Cunningham: "I would say there's really a slim chance for approval if you don't have a curriculum."

Peachtree Hope was among 16 schools that lost authority to operate because of a decision by the Georgia Supreme Court in May that invalidated approvals issued by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. Most charter schools are authorized by local school systems, but Peachtree Hope and 15 others operated under charters granted by the state commission.

Peachtree Hope and the others assembled last-minute charter applications to their local school systems.

On June 13, the two state commission-chartered schools in DeKalb, Peachtree Hope and The Museum School of Avondale Estates, were granted one-year charters by the DeKalb school board.

But Peachtree Hope's new charter was revoked the next day when the school told county officials it had split with its private management company, Minnesota-based Sabis International Schools Network.

Sabis attorney Raipher Pellegrino said the Peachtree Hope board of directors fired the company in a June 3 letter. Peachtree Hope school board president Lonnie King informed parents of the split in a June 24 letter. He didn't return a call seeking comment.

Charter denial Monday would put the parents of hundreds of children in limbo just weeks before the start of the school year. It's too late to apply to magnet schools, which means the only public option is the school around the corner. That is no option at all for Peachtree Hope parents such as Canangela Robertson.

"We basically have nowhere else to run, because a lot of the schools in south DeKalb are either being closed or are not meeting standards," Robertson said.

Robertson, who has a masters degree, said she chose Peachtree Hope last year for her eldest son, now 7, because of its college prep curriculum, daily Spanish immersion, double daily sessions of math and English and extras like art and music.

Her 5-year-old son also was to attend this year. A widow with three children, Robertson said she can't afford private school. "This is just a tough situation because we need the school to work," she said. "We don't have another choice."