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State approves Faith Academy, moves to revoke Essie Mae charter

RALEIGH – The N.C. Board of Education on Thursday approved one local charter school and took a step toward closing another.

Faith Academy’s accelerated application for a charter and the revocation of Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School’s, both recommended by the state’s Charter School Advisory Board, were approved as part of a motion encompassing a long list of business items discussed during the course of the board’s two-day meeting.

Both items appeared on the board’s meeting last month for first reading and were mentioned during the Wednesday part of the meeting.

This is not the end for Essie Mae. Tina Foxx Wallace, the school’s board chair, said the board still plans to appeal the decision. She said the decision was disappointing and the entire process has been a learning experience for the board.

The revocation recommendation revolved around failure to submit audits for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 fiscal years. After the state’s charter board raised the issue, the Essie Mae board hired legal counsel and a new accountant to complete the audits quickly, citing failures on the part of the school’s former management company and accountant.

Foxx Wallace said the 2018-2019 audit was completed in December and was positive. The school receive an extension to complete the most recent audit by the end of the month. Wallace said she feels good about the school’s appeal and previously said the board has always intended to comply.

Foxx Wallace said it has been the board’s mission to provide a community school in East Spencer since the beginning and it is maintaining that goal.

Faith Academy has been moving through the steps to state approval for months and the project traces its beginnings to 2019 when Rowan-Salisbury Schools first discussed closing Faith and Enochville elementary schools. The academy’s board is made up of notable locals who have gotten behind the project.

The charter’s approval is pending the “ready to open” process each charter school in the state undergoes. Faith Academy Chair George Wilhelm said the school already began working on that step.

Wilhelm said he board received about 100 applications for the school in about three hours after the state’s decision. The school is hoping to enroll about 500 students this fall. Furniture was being moved into the academy’s new office on Main Street in Faith on Thursday.

The academy is hoping to purchase the Faith Elementary property, which the RSS Board of Education voted to close at the end of this school year. The academy wants to begin classes in that facility this fall. If the charter can not reach an agreement with RSS in the next month, it will bring in mobile units for its first round of classes.

Gene Miller, Faith Academy board member and retired RSS assistant superintendent for operations, said the school plans to eventually host classes in two facilities to host grades K-12. The school will open for grades K-7 and add a grade level each year.

Miller said, if the school enrolls the full 500 students, Faith Academy could employ 24 to 25 teachers. He feels good about the interest in the school so far.

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