Tri-Cities parents have high hopes for new charter school

Main Street Academy plans to open in August if it gets the approval of the state Board of Education, which will consider the school's application and those of other charter schools at a meeting next month.

“I purchased in this neighborhood with hope that we would get state approval for Main Street,” said Marsha Fullard, who has a 5-year-old son. “It would be very nice to have a tuition-free charter school. Now, our community’s only viable option is Woodward Academy, a wonderful private school that many of us can’t afford.”

Main Street Academy will host a  pre-enrollment forum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Georgia International Convention Center to share their plans for educating students.

The academy was organized by concerned parents in Fulton. Its board is made up of professionals who work in real estate, law, higher education and other fields. The school has  contracted with EdisonLearning, an education management organization serving more than 350,000 students in 24 states and abroad, to help it run the  charter school.

Main Street supporters say the school will offer parents the opportunity to send their children to a small school with a national curriculum that comes with proven results. EdisonLearning-affiliated schools have posted gains in math and reading scores.

“So many people that we know down here [move] as soon as their kids hit school age,” said Stacy Kerber, a founding board member with Main Street, which has been in the works for four years. “We want people to stop moving away because they are concerned about their public school.”

EdisonLearning has had success in Georgia. At Charles Drew Charter School in Atlanta, another EdisonLearning affiliate, 84 percent of students met or exceeded state standards in math and 94 percent met or exceeded standards in reading on the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Test last school year. The school met Adequate Yearly Progress goals for students.

Main Street wants similar results. It has rallied neighborhood support with appearances at community fairs and monthly spirit nights at Chick-fil-A. Its founders have raised $12,000 in seed money from family and business contributions anxious about the possibility of a new charter school in Fulton.

Main Street's first petition to Fulton County Schools was denied a few years ago. Its second pitch, however, was approved last February.

“We feel extremely confident,” said David Shaginaw, Main Street's petitioner. “We have a solid parent involvement and an outstanding board. When people moving to the community see our fliers, their eyes light up.”

Main Street is one of 34  locally approved charter schools the state will begin considering for approval next month.  The campuses are the calm in the recent storm of controversy surrounding Georgia’s charter school movement. A constitutional legal battle that threatens the future of charter schools authorized by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission is not a threat to them or their funding.

If you go:

What: The Main Street Academy charter school is hosting a parent information forum this weekend.

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today

Where: Georgia International Convention Center, 2000 Convention Center Concourse, Atlanta

Information: 404-377-5093, www.tricitiescharter.com

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