Some charter schools slow to hand over public records

Three Wilmington-area charter schools managed by a member of the N.C. charter school advisory board have been slow to hand over information the state says is public record.

Six of the nine charter schools operating in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties responded to our April 30 request for the salaries of their employees.

Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville and Douglass Academy in Wilmington have not responded. The schools have received a combined $9.8 million in state funds this fiscal year, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

While located in three counties, the schools have something in common – they are all managed by Roger Bacon Academy, a company based in Brunswick County.

Sawyer Batten, a Roger Bacon spokeswoman, said Monday the business was drafting a statement, but that it was not ready to be released.

Roger Bacon's founder and president is Baker Mitchell, a member of the N.C. Alliance for Public Charter Schools board of directors. He also sits on the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board.

In an April 23 memo, Joel Medley, director of the state office of charter schools, reminded school boards that they are obligated to comply with N.C. public records law as a condition of their charters.

"Regardless of news reports stating that the agency is 'now' saying that the salaries of charter school employees are public record, this has always been a requirement of the Charter Agreement," Medley wrote.

He explained the state board of education may revoke a charter based on violation of any conditions set forth in the agreement.

Roger Bacon school already on warning

The state board put one Roger Bacon school, Douglass Academy, on warning earlier this year for violating the state law requiring charter schools enroll at least 65 students.

School leaders said marketing problems and securing a building were largely to blame for the low enrollment.

In May, the state board of education voted to give Douglass Academy until Aug. 1 to prove it has 65 students enrolled and until Sept. 12 to that many students actually attend.

The extension was contingent on the school agreeing to immediately surrender its charter if it fails to meet any of the enrollment requirements.

Charter school salaries

The charter schools that responded to our request for salaries were: Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy in Elizabethtown, Flemington Academy in Lake Waccamaw, SEGS Academy in Delco, Cape Fear Center for Inquiry in Wilmington, Island Montessori School in Wilmington, and Wilmington Preparatory Academy.

Using the information provided, the average teacher salary is $36,965. This does not include teachers who are paid hourly.

The state salary scale for a traditional public school teacher with a bachelor's degree ranges from $30,800 to $53,180, depending on years of experience.

A comparison of overall teacher compensation – which would include benefits and retirement – isn't possible given the requested information.

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