Darren Leach, executive director for the proposed Inspire Charter School, addresses an audience of roughly 50 people during a public hearing Tuesday at Genesis Church which will be the site of the school if it is approved by the state’s charter school board on June 2. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
May 21, 2014 10:35:14 AM
The Mississippi Charter School Authorizing Board held a public forum in Columbus Tuesday night.
Approximately 50 people gathered at Genesis Church, and what would be the home of Inspire Charter School, to hear from ICS's executive director Darren Leach and offer their input. ICS is one of three schools applying for a charter with the state.
Leach told the audience he felt parents deserve to have a say in their children's education.
"We believe parents own that right," he said.
With that in mind, Leach said the board of ICS relied heavily on parental input when they were designing the school and the curriculum. ICS will be a STEM-based curriculum, which focuses heavily on science, technology engineering and math. ICS will also have an arts emphasis, he said.
"We're able to say this what this group of kids need and we're able to design a school that's for them," Leach said. "That's the beauty of a charter school."
Leach was allotted 10 minutes to speak, after which audience members were allowed five minutes each to voice their opinions and concerns to the authorizing board. Two community members, Bryson Robinson and James Reeves, spoke to the board, each acknowledging their support for charter schools.
Robinson said he supported the idea of a charter school because he believes in the importance of arts in the classroom. Reeves said he felt the children of Columbus deserve a different option that the public school system.
Litisa Hill, who has a child in the public school system, said she has sat in her son's sixth grade classroom throughout the school year and is not satisfied with the quality of education he is receiving. She blames that, in part, on classroom size.
"The city school is not working," she said. "It's just too crowded and the teachers don't have time for them. There are too many kids in the classroom. He needs a small setting where he can learn. I don't have a problem with him learning now but it could become a problem. It's just overcrowded in the classroom. It's too much for one teacher to have."
Hill said if a charter school does not open in Columbus she will send her son to a private school.
Myron Washington has five children in the public school system. One of his daughter's is blind in one eye and Washington worries her education will suffer because of it. Washington said he left work early Tuesday so he could make it to the 5:30 meeting.
"I just want her to have the best opportunity that she can possibility get, you know what I'm saying? I watch her all the time and I know she's a good student. I'm just a parent, I'm weak for her because she's got a disability. I just want the best for her. I don't want her to get cheated."
Washington said he was encouraged by the meeting and hopes ICS is granted a charter.
"I want to see something like that come to town," he said. "I just want a better opportunity for the kids."
The authorizing board will announce its decision on which schools, if any, will be granted a charter on June 2.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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