Darlington County Schools release statement on charter agreement

STATEMENT REGARDING CHARTER RELATIONSHIP WITH CHOICES CHARTER SCHOOL

From DCSD Spokeswoman Audrey Childers:

For the past ten years, the Darlington County School (DCSD) has had an established charter relationship with CHOiCES Charter School. The charter agreement between CHOiCES Charter School and the Darlington County School District expired in May 2012. The Darlington County School District was notified of the charter expiration by the South Carolina Department of Education. Until then, neither CHOiCES nor the DCSD realized the charter had expired. The charter school legislation is clear that the charter school is responsible for submitting a new charter application to be considered by a Board of Education. CHOiCES did not submit a charter renewal application in a timely manner as required by the Charter Schools Act. Consequently, the Board had no legal power under the Act to renew or extend CHOiCES' charter.

At the last Darlington County Board of Education meeting, the Board voted to not enter into a new charter agreement with CHOiCES Charter School. There were several factors behind the Darlington County Board of Education's decision not to enter into a new charter with CHOiCES charter:

1. Education: While CHOiCES is staffed with dedicated people passionate about what they do, CHOiCES does not currently have certified high school teachers in the core areas of English, math, and social studies. And though the CHOiCES program is designed to rehabilitate and educate the students it serves, the fact is that students attending school at CHOiCES are not earning high school credits in their classes and cannot earn a high school diploma from the school.

2. Duplication of Services: The Darlington County School District has a combination of program and services designed to meet the needs of students who do not thrive in a traditional school environment. Our Darlington County Intervention School (DCIS) serves students in grades 6-12 who are unable to participate in a traditional school setting due to behavior or discipline issues. Students at DCIS participate in JROTC, and receive intensive counseling and instruction in conflict resolution and life skills. DCIS students are taught by certified teachers and the students earn high school credit for the classes they take. In other words, they can earn their high school diploma at DCIS.

Some students are not successful at DCIS or our other schools. These students have the opportunity to attend our Adult Education program, which offers GED services and work skills certifications at both Hartsville and Darlington locations. Here also, students who complete the coursework will graduate with a GED (high school equivalency diploma).

Every year a handful of DCSD students chose to attend CHOiCES. We appreciate all Chief Porter has done to assist those students.

3. Darlington County Involvement: The majority of students attending CHOiCES come from Florence, and the majority of funding comes from Florence School District 1. It therefore makes sense for Florence School District 1 to serve as the district for CHOiCES.

a. Last year Darlington expended $ 80,000 to CHOiCES. Florence 1 expended $145,000.

b. Currently only 8 of the students at CHOiCES are from Darlington County.

The Darlington County Board of Education's decision to not enter into a new charter agreement was NOT because of ratings or scores the CHOiCES school has earned.

The academic performance and graduation rates of all CHOiCES students (regardless of whether their home district was Florence or Darlington County) have been included in the Darlington County School District's rankings and ratings for the past 10 years. According to the South Carolina Department of Education's 2011 report card data, the Darlington County School District is the fifth highest scoring district in the state in terms of academic achievement. This year, based on the new Federal Report Cards, the district is ranked 6th in the state. Both of these rankings include CHOiCES in their calculations. CHOiCES is not negatively impacting the Darlington County School District's report cards or ratings.

Finally, it is the responsibility of the board of CHOiCES to establish a charter relationship with a school district. They have several options available. They can work with another school district, be chartered through a college or technical school, or join the SC Department of Education's State Charter School District. Over the years of our partnership with CHOiCES, the Darlington County School District has offered to incorporate the CHOiCES program into our current alternative school program. CHOiCES decided to continue to operate as a stand-alone school. We will continue to work with them; however, it is their responsibility to complete those charter agreements.

The Darlington County School District has had a positive working relationship with CHOiCES over the past 10 years and we wish them success in their efforts to find a new charter partner.