State school board approves Seminole charter school

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SEMINOLE, Okla. - The meeting was so packed people had to spill out into the hallway outside the State Department of Education board room.

Almost 100 people wearing blue t-shirts that said Academy of Seminole showed up in support of a yes vote.

They were appealing to the state school board after the local Seminole school board turned them down two times.

Several parents appealed to the state school board.

“Another choice in the educational field that would allow parents to find the perfect fit for their individual child,” said parent Stephanie Taylor.

“Having alternate ways of learning, and allowing parents to make decisions for their kids seem normal,” said parent Daniel Wyatt.

The charter school idea started in part with local businessman Paul Campbell.

The CEO of an aerospace company in Seminole, he said he can’t recruit employees because of the education system there.

“They’re having a hard time justifying putting their kids in a school system that averages a 19 and a half on the ACT,” Campbell said.

Campbell had no trouble garnering support from parents and other business leaders in the community in a school district that has had problems.

Their high school had to move into an old grocery story, because their building was deemed unfit.

Two different bond issues to try and build a new high school have failed.

But, the superintendent of Seminole schools said the local board denied their application, in part because they didn’t have enough community support.

“It’s a fact that 1.4 percent is their gathering point, is how much support they’ve been able to gather. And, we in Seminole do not feel, the Seminole Public Schools, that that is enough to force a charter school on our community,” said superintendent Alfred Gaches.

In the end, the state board unanimously approved the charter school plan, meaning they will now be the sponsor for the Academy of Seminole.

“This is a well thought through plan that came from the local community to be able to provide immediate opportunities for students to have their needs met,” said state superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

“We are more than excited to get started on this journey,” Daniel said.

Daniel and his wife cried tears of joy as the vote passed.

They had already pulled their two kids from Seminole schools and were educating them at home.

“As a parent, having that option and being able to choose what education my kids get is just extremely important to me,” said Stacie Wyatt.

Gaches said he feels this sets a dangerous precedent that won’t allow local school boards to deny charter applications.

“The law is very clear in that there needs to be a clear definition of demonstration of public support,” Gaches said.

Other Seminole residents were concerned how this would affect the public school.

“I would rather we put our time, energy and resources in building up the public school system,” said Marilyn Rainwater.

The Academy of Seminole will now have to work on a contract for their agreement with the state.

They plan to start next year with 11th and 12th grades.

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