Destiny Achievers Academy of Excellence is closing June 30.
The charter school, which opened on 2007 and has 180 students, is being shuttered by the Georgia Board of Education for low test scores and poor leadership.
To keep its options open, Destiny’s Governance Board withdrew its charter petition and says it will later file a new application for the 2020 school year.
In a May 31 letter to parents and guardians, Roshelle Darlene Hudson, Destiny’s new interim board chair, said that withdrawing their petition made sense.
“By selecting this option, the board and the community would be able to re-submit another application in the near future for the 2020 school year,” she said.
Hudson said that the school, based on Linecrest Road in Ellenwood, offers a second chance to students facing challenges. Destiny, which was founded by the late Ben Jakes, serves at-risk students caught up in the court system and those facing truancy, behavior issues, academic challenges, and homelessness.
Hudson said Destiny is important to the students, the parents, the staff, and the community at large.
“While we are not where we want to be, we are seeing growth in the students and will continue to work at it until we consistently make the mark,” she said. “Many of the current board members who are new to the board are dedicated and represent a skills set appropriate for providing the oversight of the school. Our mantra has been, when we know better, we do better.”
For the new school year, Andre Riley, DeKalb School District spokesman, said Destiny students will enroll in other DeKalb County schools.
Students attending summer school right now have been notified of other options – the free Title I Summer School Credit Recovery Exclusively for Destiny Students, Georgia Virtual School Credit Recovery, and the fee-based DeKalb FLEX Restore Academy.
Riley said Destiny is the only charter school in DeKalb County to cease operations for the 2018-2019 school year. The remaining 10 charter schools are DeKalb Academy of Technology and Environment, DeKalb PATH Academy, DeKalb Preparatory Academy, International Community School, Leadership Preparatory Academy, Tapestry Public Charter School, The GLOBE Academy, The Museum School of Avondale Estates, Chamblee Charter High School and Peachtree Charter Middle School.
In a May 4 letter notifying Destiny Academy that it would recommend denial of its petition to continue operating, Allen Mueller, director of District Flexibility and Charter Schools, said in the period since the school’s original charter was extended, it has not demonstrated that it can succeed at meeting student achievement requirements needed to earn charter renewal.
“Destiny’s failure to fully implement its Strategic Plan and failure to match or surpass the academic performance of similar schools in DeKalb County and the state of Georgia prohibits the department from recommending the renewal of Destiny’s charter to SNOE,” Mueller wrote.
Among the issues highlighted in the rejection letter:
n Governance accountability: Mueller said Destiny’s governing board lacks the skill set needed to implement and monitor the dramatic changes needed to improve student outcomes.
“Following the loss of its late founder, the governing board has been unable to guide the school to better student outcomes by fully implementing its Strategic Plan,” Mueller said.
Hudson said the board has been re-constituted.
“The new Destiny board members attended training when training was available by the state,” she wrote, detailing a list of training programs members attended. “The current board was learning and doing the work of the board.”
n Grave concerns about Destiny governing board’s capacity to manage the schools finances.
Mueller said that the school, which has $1.5 million in cash on hand, does not have a revenue challenge.
“The governing board has simply failed to responsibly allocate the public dollars they receive to benefit Destiny’s students and to address the facility and programmatic deficiencies that have resulted in their school’s poor academic performance,” Mueller said.
He said Destiny gets about $16,000 per pupil, roughly $6,000 more per pupil than other DeKalb charter schools, yet site visits revealed poor facility conditions and a skeleton staff providing school support.
Mueller said that the principal was paid $251,000 at a school with an enrollment of 180 students. He also pointed out that the principal’s salary was scheduled to grow annually to close to $300,000 by the end of year five, when enrollment was projected to reach 305.
“DeKalb County’s average principal salary is $145,000 annually,” the state said.
In her May 16 response, Hudson said the $251,000 was not just the principal’s salary.
“The principal salary is $115,00; the assistant principal is $85,000; and the dean of discipline, $51,500; totaling $251,000,” she told Mueller.
n Concerns over Destiny’s academic performance and its graduation rate.
The state said Destiny failed on all four of the major goals it set for the End of Course Exams, “with none of the school’s actual performance at even half of the amount promised.”
While the school’s demographics mirror high schools like Cedar Grove and Columbia, the state said Destiny performed more poorly than them and worse than all DeKalb high schools on the CCRPI and Beating the Odds.
“Destiny’s record of performance demonstrated that it cannot provide students with high quality educational options that result in the consistent and marked increases in student achievement and performance that it promised,” Mueller wrote.
Mueller said that later this year, the state plans to implement a new program to establish alternative charter schools in Georgia.
Hudson says they will apply under that program.