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State talks future of Faith Academy, Essie Mae charters

SALISBURY — The North Carolina Board of Education on Wednesday viewed recommendations for the approval of charter hopeful Faith Academy and revocation of the charter awarded to Essie Mae Kiser Foxx two years ago.

The schools have both been featured on recent agendas for the State Board of Education and the Charter School Advisory Board, with respective unanimous votes in favor of approving Faith Academy and shutting down Essie Mae. The board viewed the recommendations for discussion in December.

Both issues were scheduled for action Wednesday, but later placed in a block of other votes scheduled for the second day of the state board’s meeting today.

Faith Academy is looking for approval so it can move ahead with facility preparations and open doors this fall. Essie Mae plans to appeal a decision to revoke. There was little discussion about either school when the board reviewed the issues on Wednesday.

The CSAB reviewed the vote to revoke Essie Mae’s charter, citing failure by the school to file required audit reports for two years and low performance scores.

If the school does close, N.C. Office of Charter Schools Director Dave Machado said, the office will assist getting students enrolled elsewhere and undergo a specific closure process with the help of the office. If the school appeals a revocation decision, it could be months until a final decision is made on its fate

Faith Academy, a project that began in 2019 amid initial talks to close Faith and Enochville elementary schools, has a board made up of notable residents including former RSS operations head Gene Miller, former Rowan County Sheriff George Wilhelm and former Faith mayor Tim Williams. Sarah Hensley, the school’s head administrator, is a former RSS administrator as well.

The board is hoping to purchase the Faith Elementary property from RSS, but otherwise plans to bring in mobile units so it can begin classes.

The RSS Board of Education voted to close both schools at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, this coming June, in October and has yet to vote on disposing of the property. The RSS board discussed a proposal from Faith Academy to purchase the property in closed session with attorney Ken Soo during its December meeting, but it did not take any action on the issue.

RSS Associate Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann told the board he planned to bring a recommendation on the property to the board after the new year.

The school plans to begin serving students K-7 and eventually expand to all grade levels between two facilities. The board has said it hopes to draw students from Rowan County and neighboring counties as well.

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