Proposed East Spencer charter school has new name, leaders

Published 12:05 am Friday, August 26, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

EAST SPENCER— A proposed charter school has a new look and new leadership, and is looking for feedback before its application deadline.

Formerly under the wing of the Paul L. Dunbar Group, the Essie Mae Kiser Foxx School hopes to bring a charter school to the town of East Spencer, which has been without a school since the 1980s.

Should its charter be approved, the proposed school would open in 2018 for students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Board member Nan Lund said the school would eventually house kindergarten through eighth grade, with a curriculum that focuses on personalized learning and incorporates art and foreign language.

A charter application the Dunbar Group submitted in September 2015 was denied. The North Carolina Charter Schools Advisory Board cited past convictions and charges of the then-chair Kenneth Muhammad El, formerly Kenneth Fox, and a proposed management company as reasons for not clearing the application.

The school’s new charter application will be submitted to the state for review by Sept. 16, Lund and fellow board member Whitney Peckman said they hope to get feedback from the community before then.

“This is about a fresh start,” Lund said.

The group has already been handing out surveys to local parents and community members, and Lund said that there’s been a lot of interest in the proposed school so far. The information sessions are a chance for people to meet the new board and the proposed school’s principal, Jessica Knight-Miller.

The school has a new board after it split from the Dunbar Group. Both groups are committed to lifting the town of East Spencer off its feet, and are tag-teaming the project. The Dunbar Group, chaired by Muhammad El, will focus on community development, while Lund, Peckman and the new board work to give the town a school. Peckman said the projects grew too involved to be tackled by a single group — so they divided their interests.

“We opted to put our energies here,” Peckman said.

Tina Wallace currently chairs the board for the Essie Mae Kiser Foxx School. New board members include parents and several former Rowan-Salisbury teachers.

“So we’ve got a wide variety of education experience,” Lund said.

The sessions have been described as a “listening tour” to see what parents want from a potential charter school.

“This school is clearly going to have the parents involved, and so we want to start this from the very beginning,” Lund said.

The first session was held Thursday evening. Future sessions are:

  • Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. — Gethsemane Baptist Church, 719 S. Cladwell St.
  • Monday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. – EastSquare Artworks (behind Dee’s Jewelry), 120 E. Innes St.
  • Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. — Gethsemane Baptist Church, 719 S. Cladwell St.
  • Sept. 5 from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. — Southern City AME Church, 940 N. Long St., East Spencer
  • Sept. 5 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. — EastSquare Artworks, 120 E. Innes St.
  • Sept. 8 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. — EastSquare Artworks, 120 E. Innes St.

“We’re excited to share our plans for the school,” Peckman said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.