Museum School will remain a DeKalb County charter school … for nowThe Museum School of Avondale Estates Executive Director Katherine Kelbaugh. Photo by Dean Hesse.
This story has been updated.
Avondale Estates, GA — The Museum School of Avondale Estates has come full circle in its dispute with DeKalb County Schools, with the school’s board voting to accept a revised version of the charter renewal agreement with the district.
The vote comes two days before the current charter agreement was set to expire, and it follows many months of drama about the school’s future.
Charter schools operate independently of school districts through agreements called charters. In exchange for autonomy, the schools agree to meet higher academic standards. Local charters are created by a three-party agreement between the school, the local school board and the Georgia Board of Education. The Museum School’s agreement with DeKalb County Schools expires on June 30, 2022.
The Georgia Board of Education and the DeKalb County Board of Education held special meetings on June 29 to approve the charter renewal agreement. The renewal is for a five-year term.
While The Museum School has accepted the agreement, the school’s leadership still wants to make The Museum School a state charter.
Kelly Swinks, the chair of the Museum School’s Board of Directors, said, “While we remain confident that the State Charter Schools Commission is best aligned with the school’s strategic plan and mission, The Museum School’s top priority is ensuring a smooth opening for its 600 students and 100 staff members on August 4. Therefore, The Museum School’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept DeKalb County School Board’s 5-year charter term and beginning Friday, July 1, The Museum School will enter into a new 5-year charter with the district.”
In April, the Georgia Board of Education initially cleared a path for TMS to become a state charter school by denying the school’s charter agreement with DeKalb County.
That April denial cleared the way for The Museum School to become a state charter and to remain in its current location at the old Forrest Hills Elementary building located on Forrest Boulevard in greater Decatur. The state BOE’s denial was followed by an approval by the State Charter Schools Commission in May.
The Museum School and DeKalb County Schools’ dispute stems, in part, over a disagreement about the lease for the building. The Museum School in its renewal application asked DeKalb County Schools to turn over the deed for the building in lieu of recouping the $7 million in improvements from the school district. As part of the earlier renewal agreement, the county wanted to change the terms of the school’s lease, so the school community won’t be reimbursed for the cost of building improvements.
But DeKalb Schools pushed back on the state Board of Education’s denial of The Museum School’s charter. Following a legal threat from DeKalb County Schools, the Georgia BOE held another meeting on June 10. The state BOE voted twice on June 10: once to reconsider its earlier denial of The Museum School’s charter with DeKalb County Schools and once to deny the TMS charter petition a second time. The state BOE deadlocked twice, voting 7-7 for both proposals.
The state BOE again met on June 27 to reconsider the matter, but shortly after their meeting convened, the board Chair Jason Downey said he’d just received notice that the DeKalb Board of Education would hold a meeting Wednesday morning, June 29, to resolve the conflict with The Museum School. Downey asked the state Board of Education to recess their meeting until 3 p.m. on June 29 and the state BOE agreed.
The DeKalb Board of Education voted Wednesday for a five-year renewal and decoupled that renewal from the question about ownership of the building. The Museum School accepted those changes.
To read the full backstory on this complex topic, click here.
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