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Charlotte charter school can’t open because of plagiarism allegation

N.C. Board of Education OKs 23 new charter schools, including six in Charlotte area

Cameron Creek Charter won’t be allowed to open in east Charlotte this year, based on accusations that it cut and pasted large parts of its application from another Charlotte proposal.

The N.C. Board of Education voted Thursday to deny that school a charter. But 23 new charter schools around the state got final approval to open in August, including six in the Charlotte area. Those six, in Charlotte, Mooresville and Concord, expect to serve about 2,500 students.

The board had granted preliminary approval to 25 schools last year. But Cameron Creek’s application came under scrutiny in February after another would-be charter operator told state officials that the Cameron Creek application appeared to have been copied from hers. In several instances, the other school’s name was left in the Cameron Creek application.

Cameron Creek founders argued that both applications had used material from the same public sources, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools website. But the state’s Charter School Advisory Council voted unanimously to withdraw its support last month, saying founder Sylvia Cole and her board did not appear to have done the work to be ready to operate a school.

Thursday the state board voted not to issue Cameron Creek a charter. Joel Medley, director of the N.C. Office of Charter Schools, said the vote was based on the plagiarized application and on more recent news that one of Cameron Creek’s board members, who is a lawyer, had been disbarred in another state.

Medley said the Cameron Creek board can apply again for a 2015-16 opening.

Sid Reynolds of the Signature Agency, a public relations firm Cameron Creek has hired, said last month that the Cameron Creek board would go to court if the Board of Education denied their charter. Reynolds did not return a call for comment Thursday.

Charter schools are public schools run by independent nonprofit boards with permission of the state. Interest has been booming, especially in the Charlotte area, since the state legislature lifted the 100-school cap in 2011.

Approved schools include:

•  Aristotle Preparatory Academy, a K-12 school that would be run by the national Challenge Foundation Academy chain and would target students in west Charlotte, with a focus on science, technology and math. Plans call for opening with 200 students in K-3, eventually growing to 950 in all grades.

•  Charlotte Choice Charter, which would target disadvantaged K-8 students in west Charlotte, opening with 200 students in K-5 and growing to a little more than 300.

•  Cabarrus Charter Academy in Concord and Langtree Charter Academy in Mooresville. Both would be run by the N.C. Charter Educational Foundation, which is associated with the Florida-based Charter Schools USA management company. They will offer a college-prep K-12 program with eventual enrollment of more than 2,300 in each school. Each plans to open with about 660 in grades K-6.

•  Invest Collegiate, located in Charlotte’s Wilmore neighborhood, which aims to mix low-income students in walking distance with upper- and middle-income K-12 students. Enrollment would start at about 560 in K-6 and grow to more than 1,100.

•  StudentFirst Academy, a private school in west Mecklenburg County, will convert to a charter school. The plan calls for it to serve about 600 K-12 students eventually, starting with just over 300 in K-6.

Helms: 704-358-5033
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