State officials say the proponents of a Brookhaven charter school should reduce the number of City Council members on the proposed school board, provide a plan and budget for teaching students with disabilities or who need help with English, and  provide more budget information on health benefits.

The backers of the proposed Brookhaven Innovation Academy were given until Aug. 17 to provide the additional information to the staff members of Georgia’s State Charter Schools Commission, who would then make a recommendation to the commission on whether to approve the school.

The commission is scheduled to meet Aug. 26 to consider whether to approve or deny the charter for the new school, the letter said.

“The SCSC review panel determined that the educational model of BIA indicates that the proposed school will operate as a high-quality charter school consistent with the SCSC’s mission and the educational goals of Georgia; however, the SCSC review panel identified several aspects of the school’s operational plan that require additional action or explanation before SCSC staff will recommend approval of its charter petition,” Morgan Felts, associate general counsel and petitions manager for the commission, said in the letter dated July 30.

Members of the board of the proposed Brookhaven academy took their case to a panel of representatives of the state charter commission on July 24, hoping the commission would approve the new school on its second time around. The commission rejected the school’s application last year.

“It’s been two years worth of work to get to this point,” academy board chairman and Brookhaven City Councilman Bates Mattison said after the meeting. “We’ve dived far deeper than we had last year at this time.”

Proponents of the charter school say they addressed concerns raised by the commission last year in their current application. One change they proposed was to expand the planned school board and to reduce the number of Brookhaven City Council members on the board to three from five.

But that wasn’t enough for the state commission’s panel, who asked that the number of city representatives be cut to two and that reduction be included in the school’s bylaws. Current bylaws reserve five board seats for city officials, Felts wrote.

“The SCSC review panel remains concerned regarding the independence of BIA and the appearance of a conflict of interest should a majority of city officials remain on the governing board of BIA,” Felts wrote. “Ensuring that a minority of city officials comprise a minority of the BIA governing board will promote the school’s independence.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.