State denies new charter to Ivy Prep’s intown boys school

The state denied a new charter for Ivy Prep’s boys school on Memorial Drive. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

The closing of its all-boys school at the end of this school year represents another blow for the Ivy Prep charter schools franchise, which has not been able to extend the success of its original all-girl concept to other ventures. The success of the Gwinnett Ivy Prep girls school was often touted by legislators, one of whom now leads the network, former Cobb lawmaker Alisha Thomas Morgan.

Ivy Prep closed its first charter high school in October, upsetting parents who wanted the school, despite dwindling attendance and financial challenges, to soldier on through the rest of the school year.

Now, the state Charter Schools Commission has declined to renew the charter of the Ivy Prep Young Men’s Leadership Academy on Memorial Drive in DeKalb County, which serves Atlanta and DeKalb students. Ivy Prep still operates its original Gwinnett girls school and the intown Ivy Preparatory Academy at Kirkwood for Girls.

In its March review of the charter renewal for the boys school, an adviser to the Charter Schools Commission said “the school’s academic data revealed that the school did not provide students a better educational opportunity than that which is provided by DeKalb County, the school’s comparison district.” Staff also cited the failure of the franchise to submit its required financial audits to the commission.

I am waiting for a statement from Ivy Prep.

Here is a response from DeKalb, which will enroll some of the boys who were at the Ivy Prep school:

According to DeKalb spokesman: Quinn Hudson

The State Charter School Commission voted in March to not renew the Ivy Prep Young Men’s Leadership Academy due to poor financial management and weak academic performance.  The school will cease operations on June 30, 2016.

You will recall the charter school ceased offering high school classes in October 2015.  The District successfully accepted 48 high school students back into their home schools at the time.  We will, of course, welcome back the remaining students from the Young Men’s Leadership Academy into DeKalb County schools.

Most of our traditional DCSD schools perform better than this charter school, which was on the OSD list. However, for those families who believe that their home school might not be the best option for their student, the timing of the decision is unfortunate. Our Open Enrollment ended February 19. We are accepting late applications for choice schools as well as at our nine District authorized start-up charter schools, but the parents will more than likely be assigned to wait lists.

Here is a summary of the discussion about the financial issues and the vote to reject the charter renewal by the state Charter Schools Commission from the official minutes of the meeting:

Chairman Rippner then asked Mr. Terence Washington for an update on the receipt of annual audits from state charter schools. Mr. Washington stated that the contractual deadline for submitting audits to the SCSC was October 1st, but there are four schools that did not meet that deadline. Utopian Academy for the Arts completed its audit on March 15th, but the audits for Ivy Preparatory Academy at Gwinnett, Ivy Preparatory Academy at Kirkwood, and Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s Leadership Academy remain outstanding. Chairman Rippner invited Alisha Morgan, Executive Director for the Ivy Preparatory Academies, to discuss the status of the schools’ audits. Ms. Morgan stated that she and the schools are working diligently to correct the accounting errors that have caused the delay in completing the audits. Ms. Morgan stated that the schools hired two vendors to assist in that process, and the work to do so will soon be complete.

Ms. Morgan noted that the financial state causing delayed audits predated her tenure as Executive Director as well as the service of the majority of the current membership of the schools’ governing board. Vice Chairman Williams responded that he respects the work Ms. Morgan and the new governing board are doing as well as the progress they have made, but that the schools, as institutions, need to demonstrate compliance and financial viability.

Commissioner Lewis emphasized that the audit process is important to fully understanding the position of a charter school and voiced his belief in Ms. Morgan and the new governing board to establish sound financial practices in the future.

Chairman Rippner requested that Ms. Felts present the SCSC staff recommendation regarding the renewal application for Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s Leadership Academy (IPYMLA). Ms. Felts noted that IPYMLA failed to meet academic, financial or operational expectations in accordance with its charter contract or the comprehensive Performance Framework. Evaluation of the school’s academic data revealed that the school did not provide students a better educational opportunity than that which is provided by DeKalb County, the school’s comparison district.

Accordingly, SCSC staff recommended that the renewal application for IPYMLA be denied so as to nonrenew the charter contract for the state charter school. Chairman Rippner called for a motion to approve the SCSC staff recommendation and noted that there were no individuals signed up for public comment. Commissioner Williams made the motion and Commissioner Perez provided a second. There was no discussion, and the recommendation was unanimously approved by those present.

Here is the statement from Ivy Prep:

Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s Leadership Academy will cease operations in June after five years of educating students. The closure follows the recommendation of the State Charter Schools Commission, which voted in March not to renew the school’s charter contract for another term. YMLA, located at 1807 Memorial Drive, educates nearly 260 scholars.

“I am deeply saddened about the fate of YMLA,” said Alisha T. Morgan, the new executive director of Ivy Preparatory Academies.“Our scholars are bright young men with promising futures.”

Transforming student achievement at YMLA was a top priority at Ivy Preparatory Academies this school year. A turnaround plan was launched in the fall by new school leaders. “I knew coming into this role that YMLA was struggling academically,” Morgan said. “We immediately put a number of supports in place, including a new principal and intense training for teachers. We’ve received positive feedback about our efforts, including from our authorizer, but with YMLA, we just ran out of time.”

The state commission’s decision to reject YMLA’s renewal application was based on a review of three prior years of performance data. Commissioners said that they had confidence in the new leadership of Ivy Prep Academies and the future of Ivy Prep’s single-gender schools for girls.

“We look forward to working with you, Miss Morgan, on really making the other two schools stronger and stronger,” Bonnie Holliday, executive director of the commission, said after the vote in March.

Ivy Prep has two campuses for girls that educate a total of about 750 students. Its flagship campus is located at 3705 Engineering Drive in Gwinnett County. The second campus, Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls, shares a building with YMLA.

YMLA opened in August 2011. The commission rushed the approval process to give students displaced by the closing of Peachtree Hope Charter School, which shut down due to management issues, another educational option. Ivy Prep moved into Peachtree Hope’s building on Memorial Drive and hired some of its key teaching and administrative staff. The school was serving students in less than 30 days after it was approved by commissioners.

Ivy Prep success strategies that produced high academic gains for girls, such as daily double doses of math and language arts classes, were not included in the curriculum for the boys’ school. YMLA developed a separate focus on teaching and learning that included leadership development to help prepare boys for manhood. Administrators at YMLA said scholars typically came to YMLA one-to-two grade levels behind in academic development, which slowed efforts to improve achievement and fueled high turnover. The school was operated by five principals in the past four years, school leaders said.

YMLA’s current principal, Derick Brown, a veteran educator of 17 years was hired in October to turn around student achievement. Brown had opened Brighter Choice Charter Middle School for boys in Albany, N.Y. as its principal before coming to Ivy Prep. In the metro area, Brown was part of the leadership team that helped Grove Park Elementary School earn the nickname “Buckhead on Bankhead” for the quality of the education offered to students.

Brown said he had a “no excuses” policy at Grove Park that he also implemented at YMLA. “Our scholars are very bright,” Brown said of YMLA. “They work hard. We wish we had more time to fulfill the criteria within our charter. We believe if were given more time, we would have met our goals.”

This school year, YMLA purchased new assessment tools to better track student performance and provide data-driven instruction to students. YMLA had also received a literacy grant from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement to improve language arts skills development. Despite the improvements, the state denied YMLA’s renewal application.

“As a former legislator and one of the creators of the State Charter Schools Commission, I know first-hand that this work is about accountability and doing what’s best for kids,” Morgan said. “If we haven’t been able to consistently provide a high quality education for all of our scholars, as adults we have to face the consequences. This should not reflect on our scholars. This isn’t their fault.”

Ivy Prep Transition Teams are helping families to find quality charter and traditional schools to enroll in for the upcoming school year. Transition support is also being offered to YMLA’s 15 full-time employees, Morgan added.

Some YMLA teachers have interviewed for new positions at Ivy Prep Gwinnett and Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls. Transition Team members also will be sending YMLA teachers information about job fairs hosted by other metro area districts. Resume writing support and letters of recommendation also will be provided.

“This decision, although very difficult to accept, will enable us to return to what we know best, which is educating girls,” Morgan said. “Ivy Prep began as a single-gender public charter for girls. We have had great academic success in this model over the years. We will remain connected with our male scholars and will always consider them a part of the Ivy family.”

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

19 comments
Lisa Fern Mozer
Lisa Fern Mozer

What our efforts show is limited change - community value of education In short- we can't build better education programs without keeping good teachers

JohnB
JohnB

It's encouraging to see accountability in our school system, and this certainly demonstrates that.  I think the decision is good, but timing is awful; more thought should have been given to students and their families in the decision making process, to ensure that all options were available for consideration.

Astropig
Astropig

This is the way charters are supposed to work.If they don't do the job,shut 'em down. I think that this is a good thing.If kids in zip code schools had this kind of protection of their educational interests,the whole system would benefit.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig


No, that is not the way that public schools should work but, then again, this isn't really a public school. The traditional public school, if failing, should be given the correct support for the school and the surrounding community. We know that the failing schools are failing because of the lack of resources the student's have at home or can bring with them into the classroom. The "shut it and move on" method causes too much disturbance to something that should be a stable in the student's life. 

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig I change my mind.......you believe what you write! One of your personalities may be my hero!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@sneakpeakintoeducation @Astropig


Let us not forget that the budget for traditional public schools through Georgia's Republican-led legislators has been cut by 6 billion dollars since Republicans came into power in Georgia's legislature in the early 2000s.  I believe the reasons for that are not only related to budgetary factors but also to political ideology.  Shameful, imo.

Astropig
Astropig

@JBBrown1968 @Astropig


This is really a "Plane Lands Safely,Passengers Catch Taxi's" -story.The only reason we're seeing it here is because it is perceived to give charters a black eye.Nothing could be further from the truth.People that really understand the concept of the charter movement want to see the failing ones shut down.When parents have a choice between a failing public school and the possibility of really holding their kids charter accountable,they'll choose the charter.Charters are growing like weeds in July, even though some open and some close every single year,DESPITE the effort of the mossback fossils (like above) to slow their growth.

Jay Still
Jay Still

Charter schools are part of the solution to our outdated education system. However, they have to be expanded with great care, have effective monitoring and accountability frameworks, and have community input during every step of the process - including the decision to build a charter school in a community in the first place. Florida serves as a cautionary tale for what happens when charters are expanded with reckless abandon: http://www.salon.com/2015/08/12/the_big_jeb_bush_charter_school_lie_how_florida_became_a_cautionary_tale_for_the_rest_of_the_country_partner/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

Dunstann
Dunstann

Let's finally empower parents to close down under-performing public schools. 

Give parents tuition vouchers to use in the public or private school of their choice.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Dunstann Why do you need a voucher to be a responsible parent. You produced them man up! 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Dunstann Or, perhaps, empower public schools with the ability to remove misbehaving, non-attending, and no-effort students and send them home to their parents?


And refund to those parents the school taxes THEY have paid.

decaturgirl
decaturgirl

I'd guess most of the parents of the misbehaving, non-attending, and no-effort students don't pay property taxes.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@decaturgirl Very few living people don't pay property taxes:  Those living in cardboard boxes under bridges, those in convents and living in churches, for example.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@decaturgirl And if that was a dig at the poor, I can tell you quite a few of those students listed above come from above middle class homes!

Astropig
Astropig

@JBBrown1968 @Dunstann


" Why do you need a voucher to be a responsible parent"...


We give some families vouchers for food,some vouchers for housing,some for both.Who are you to play God and decide what needs they get a voucher for? You're not calling food or housing voucher parents irresponsible, so why blame a parent that wants a better education for their kids?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

". . . the Charter Schools Commission said 'the school’s academic data revealed that the school did not provide students a better educational opportunity than that which is provided by DeKalb County, the school’s comparison district.' ”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

TO DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM SUPERINTENDENT DR. R. STEPHEN GREEN: 

Dr. Green, I want to offer you a suggestion for a specific monetary need (for the upcoming county vote for DeKalb Schools' tax increase) which I believe would significantly benefit the public school students of DeKalb County.  (I was an ILT and high school Reading Chair in the DCSS for 29 years, before my retirement in 2000.)

I attended a college reunion this past weekend at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia.  I took a tour guide of the expanded Wesleyan campus and walked through a delightful reconverted older home which was either bought by, or given as a gift to, Wesleyan. This small home is within walking distance to the greater Wesleyan campus.  Wesleyan's students who are Art Majors renovated this home for a Saturday School for local children from impoverished backgrounds.  The home has a kitchen for snacks or small meals, various academic rooms, a reading room, a small library, and a room for storing supplies for teachers. Touring this building was truly inspiring:

From the brochure I received at Wesleyan - which caused me think of sharing this project with the DCSS:

"After a decade within Anthony Homes, AMKT (Aunt Maggie's Kitchen Table) recently moved onto our Wesleyan campus offering AMKT Saturday School.  With expanded programming designed to improve overall life success of children and youth enrolled, we provide increased exposure to multiple educational, arts, sports and related learning opportunities paired with our weekly scholastic curriculum.  Measurement results, including school and parent assessments and pre and post- tests provide indicators crucial in setting individual and group objectives.

Wesleyan students become lifelong servant leaders by working together in service to the larger community and recognizing responsible citizenship. . . .AMKT creates a safe space to share feelings, learn conflict resolution, improve academic outcomes, good study habits and create interesting fields of interest.  In addition, AMKT provides strength-based reinforcement and community linkage to students and parents. . . ."

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady @MaryElizabethSings


I attended Wesleyan for two years back in the early 1960s before I headed for NYC, where I received my degree in English.  I was a Theatre Major at Wesleyan, heading for a B.F.A. before I transferred my credits to a university in NYC where I received my B.A.  That change took me an extra year to complete my B.A. degree.


I was a Green Knight and still have wonderful friendships formed at Wesleyan, an excellent girls' school with a beautiful campus and architecture.