The proposal for a new North Charleston public elementary school to be run by a private group took a significant step forward Monday night, but it's not a done deal yet.
The Charleston County School Board won't give final approval for Meeting Street Education Group to operate a to-be-created neighborhood school in the former Brentwood Middle building until it sees detailed plans and goals.
The irony is that more flexibility was a major thrust behind this new public-private partnership. Still, some board members said they want more oversight.
"We do have some accountability," said board Vice Chairman Tom Ducker. "I'm willing to give them that freedom, but the board has responsibility" for taxpayers' money.
Ben Navarro, leader of the Meeting Street group, said he'll pull that plan together as soon as possible. The goal of opening this fall will be a challenge, but he said he appreciated the confidence expressed by the board in signing off on a memorandum of understanding. Members Chris Collins and Elizabeth Moffly voted against the majority.
That was one of a number of significant issues decided by the board Monday night, but the board put on hold other high-profile issues that attracted a standing-room only crowd.
Some of the key votes included:
Applying for a waiver to not make up the two days when schools were shut down Jan. 29 and 30 for winter weather. The General Assembly is expected to pass legislation leaving that decision to local school boards.
Accepting some recommendations of the Fox Lawson salary study, which will cost about $8.5 million and result in raises for the vast majority of district employees. Those who will see the biggest difference in their paychecks will be principals and assistant principals.
Agreeing 8-1 to revoke the charter for Apple Charter School on James Island. The school has the right to appeal. Collins dissented.
Signing off 6-3 on adding two Advanced Placement teachers to the seven schools with three or fewer AP courses, which will cost roughly $900,000. Board members Ducker, Moffly and Todd Garrett dissented.
The board also received results from a vote among Hursey Elementary families, who agreed 53-19 to expand Montessori into the full school.
A number of items were pulled from the board's three-page agenda, including all recommendations from school community task forces in each geographic area of the district. One of those is merging St. Andrews Middle with West Ashley Middle and creating a magnet program at the combined school.
Residents talked about that and other recommendations, and the board said it wanted to have a deeper discussion on these issues.
Other early budget decisions that were supposed to happen Monday night were delayed such as: roughly $4 million to add buses so six middle schools can start earlier; $1.9 million for a new alternative high school; and $1.6 million for a new magnet school for academically advanced Mount Pleasant students.
None of those expenditures had offsetting cuts, so that could give the district administration some leverage in asking for a tax hike in coming months.
Board members were united in their desire to take a step back and slow down. Garrett said those were good ideas that should be considered in the context of the full budget.
"This might be a good time to stop and reassess where we're at," said board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats.
Superintendent Nancy McGinley said if some decisions aren't made soon, it will be impossible for those to come to fruition by this fall.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.
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