By Tori Hamby

A planned Lake Norman charter school is one of the 25 charter schools approved by the North Carolina Board of Education last week.

On Sept 6, the board approved a preliminary charter for Langtree Charter Academy, which will be located near Exit 31 off of I-77 in Iredell County.

The school’s charter application indicates that it will open with 661 kindergarten through sixth grade students at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year. The school will add a grade each additional school year, becoming a full kindergarten through 12th grade school during the 2019-20 school year.

School officials expect enrollment to reach 1,745 students after five years, according to the application.

The North Carolina Charter School Foundation plans to open the school, as well as another school in Cabarrus County. Charter School USA, a Florida-based education management company that runs charter schools in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana will help manage the day-to-day operations of both schools.

“It’s like any situation where you have a school system and then a school board,” Rick Sipes, a NCCSF board member, told the Herald Weekly last month.

On its application, school officials indicated a high achievement gap between white and non-white students in Iredell-Statesville Schools as a sign for the need of another charter school in the area.

Data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for the school system shows that 43.5 percent of black students, 52.2 percent of Hispanic students and 53.6 percent of economically disadvantaged students passed state-mandated End-of-Grade and End-of-Course tests for the 2010-11 school year, compared with 78 percent of white students.

The application states that CSUSA has had a “strong track record of success” with low-income and minority students in the states where CSUSA operates.”

State approves charter for former Pine Lake Prep head

Joel Medley, director of the North Carolina Office of Charter Schools, also said that there is no conflict of interest between former Pine Lake Preparatory administrator’s move to open a new charter school in Charlotte and her current position on a state charter school advisory board.

Medley said that former Pine Lake Prep head of school and North Carolina Charter School Advisory Council member Kate Alice Dunaway recused herself from a vote that recommended the approval of Invest Collegiate, a charter school Dunaway plans to open in Charlotte’s Wilmore neighborhood.

“There were two members of the council that were involved in some way with applications that have been granted preliminary charters,” Medley said.

The advisory council makes recommendations to the state board of education on whether to approve applications for charter schools, Medley said. The council’s by laws state that a member must abstain from voting on actions that present a potential personal or professional conflict of interest.

The state board of education approved charters for Invest Collegiate and 24 other charter schools throughout the state Sept. 6.

Dunaway served as principal of American Renaissance Charter School in Statesville for about five years before opening Pine Lake Prep as a founding board member. She served as Pine Lake Prep’s head of school from 2007 to August 2011 when she left the school to pursue other opportunities.

“We bring quite a bit of experience to this opportunity,” Dunaway said.

She said she also recused herself from voting to recommend Langtree Charter because she lives in the Lake Norman area.

“That’s sort of the standard on the council because many of its members are intimately aware of charters and in some cases involved in charters,” Dunaway said.

Charter schools opening in 2013

The North Carolina Board of Education voted to allot charters to the following schools:

• Bladen County: Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy

• Cabarrus County: Cabarrus Charter Academy

• Chatham County: Willow Oak Montessori

• Cleveland County: Pinnacle Classical Academy

• Columbus County: Flemington Academy

• Forsyth County: The North Carolina Leadership Academy

• Iredell County: Langtree Charter Academy

• Durham County: The Institute for the Development of Young Leaders

• Granville County: Falls Lake Academy, Oxford Preparatory High School

• Guilford County: Summerfield Charter Academy

• Mecklenburg County: Aristotle Preparatory Academy, Cameron Creek Charter, Charlotte Choice Charter, Invest Collegiate and StudentFirst Academy

• New Hanover County: Douglass Academy, Island Montessori Charter and STEM Education for a Global Society Academy

• Onslow County: ZECA School of Arts & Technology

• Orange County: Howard & Lillian Lee Scholars and The Expedition School

• Randolph County: Uwharrie Charter Academy

• Robeson County: Southeastern Academy

• Wake County: Longleaf School of the Arts