National News
April 5, 2013

Charter schools in SC receive awards with plans to open 9 more schools

Contact: Julie Roy 

The Palmetto Gold and Silver Awards for the 2012-2013 school year showed six schools of the South Carolina Public Charter School District being recognized by the South Carolina Department of Education. The recognition comes as the District creates a new non-profit foundation to help support the schools of the District, including the nine additional schools that are scheduled to open in August 2013.

The Palmetto awards are based on the criteria in the statewide Accountability Manual as approved by the state Education Oversight Committee. Calhoun Falls Charter School received a gold award for general performance.

Palmetto Scholars Academy secured gold in general performance and gold for closing the achievement gap.

South Carolina Connections Academy, an online virtual school for K-12 students, merited a silver award for closing the achievement gap. This is the second year that South Carolina Connections Academy secured recognition. Also building on previous success, Spartanburg Charter School won gold for general performance and silver for closing the achievement gap. York Preparatory Academy won gold for general performance in the elementary grades and won silver for the middle school grades. Fox Creek High School won gold for the fourth time (that school transferred to the state-wide district from the Edgefield County School District in 2012).

"We are extremely pleased with these results," stated South Carolina Public Charter School District Superintendent Wayne Brazell, Ph. D. "The families, teachers, and administrators in these schools have worked very hard, and I'm glad to see that these six school communities are being recognized," he added. "We are really beginning to see the academic improvements in our public charter schools."

The state nod comes after several national organizations have likewise noted success in the state's charter school community. Earlier this year, the Center for Education Reform in Washington, D. C. announced that South Carolina had moved from seventeenth to twelfth in the nation regarding the best state public charter school laws.

That improved ranking came after the South Carolina General Assembly worked to enhance the state law last year, which Governor Haley signed last spring. In addition, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers noted the state-wide charter school district's commitment to creating parent-choice options. "A high-performing charter school network is dependent on strong charter school authorizing. We commend the South Carolina Public Charter School District for working to fulfill the charter school promise by providing schools with the autonomy to innovate and the accountability necessary for charter schools to thrive," comments Greg Richmond, president and CEO of NACSA, which supports and monitors public charter school authorizers.

The recent success arrives as the state-wide district launches a non-profit foundation. The board of that foundation hired the inaugural executive director on March 25, 2013. Daniel J. Cassidy is now leading the efforts of the SC Foundation for Public Charter Schools to build additional financial support for the schools of the state-wide district. "I'm very excited about furthering the well-being of these schools," said Cassidy. "Our goal is to develop a support system for these schools that will empower the entire professional learning community in each school to provide the highest quality public education that they can." Cassidy, who was appointed to federal education work by two previous US Presidents, is no stranger to public school choice and public charter schools, in particular. His efforts will reinforce the current seventeen schools of the District and the additional nine schools coming in August 2013.

South Carolina Public Charter School District Opening this year will be Lowcountry Leadership Charter School in Hollywood, South Carolina with a projectbased learning model and an emphasis on the heritage of the Lowcountry. The school will serve students in grades K-9 in its first year, adding additional grades over the next three years. Fairfield Charter School in the nearby West Ashley area of Charleston will be a blended school, offering both traditional classroom courses and virtual learning courses over the Internet to address the needs of local high school students who seek scheduling flexibility. Also in that area of the state will be Bridges Preparatory School in Beaufort; the school will offer grades K-6 initially and add a grade each year to become a K-12 school. Bridges will offer a curriculum that has a heavy emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math, as presented through the Paideia model of whole-child learning.

Further north, Coastal Leadership Academy will be located in Myrtle Beach and offer grades 9-12. The school will provide a project-based learning approach with an emphasis on community service and stewardship of the environment.

In the Midlands area, two schools will join the state-wide district. Midlands Middle College will offer grades 11 and 12 on the Airport Campus of Midlands Technical College in Lexington. Midlands Middle College is becoming a public charter school after years of being a very successful regional choice program for several school districts in the area. In Columbia, the SC Science Academy plans to offer middle school grades and plans to add additional higher grade levels each year until offering grades 6-12. The school is committed to offer a curriculum with a heavy emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math.

The Pee Dee Math, Science, and Technology Academy will be located in Lee County and serve students in K-2 in the initial year of school operations with additional grades being added until the school offers grades K-6.

In the Upstate, one new school will join the district. The GREEN Charter School will be located in Greenville and will offer grades K-6 in the initial year with additional grades being added until the school is a K-12 school.

The GREEN name is an acronym for Greenville Renewable Energy EducatioN. The school will offer a curriculum that is rich in math and science, especially as related to energy studies and renewable resources.

Cyber Academy of South Carolina will offer a fully online virtual school program beginning with students in grades K-9 and adding three more grade levels over the next three years. The fully virtual program will be available to students anywhere in South Carolina who have routine access to the Internet.

The SC Public Charter School District currently has approximately 11,500 students in seventeen schools, including more than 8,000 students who are learning virtually online in grades K-12. The virtual learning students can be found in every county of the state. Each charter school agrees to operate under a charter, which is a legal contract between the governing board of every school and the authorizing office. Accountability is an important aspect of the charter school approach. Like traditional public schools, charter schools do not charge tuition, and charter schools must address the entire state curriculum for all grade levels offered. Students are required to meet all state graduation requirements, and the schools are required to administer all state standardized testing, which is conducted under monitored conditions. All public charter schools are subject to state laws regarding professional licensure for school staff, though in public charter schools, such staff members are at-will employees of the school. This means that teachers can be released from employment without regard to complex hiring and dismissal practices. The schools are supervised by a governing board that includes parents and other members of the community who are ultimately responsible for the operations and performance of the school. Unlike a magnet school, public charter schools are open to all students as long as space permits.

For more information about the South Carolina Public Charter School District, please access the district web site at or call the district office at (803) 734-8322. That web site also has links to the web sites of the current schools of the district and to the schools opening in August 2013. For additional information about the newly created SC Foundation for Public Charter Schools, please access the foundation's web site at or call Dan Cassidy at (803) 546-4955.


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