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Opinion | Finally, state superintendent reverses course, weighs in on Washington County charter debacle

For months, state superintendent Eric Mackey has said he has no jurisdiction over the state charter school commission. However, as we have pointed out numerous times, the charter law of 2015 clearly says, “The department shall oversee the performance and effectiveness of all authorizers established under this act.” Furthermore, the guidelines written to govern the charter commission say, “The department will oversee the performance and effectiveness of all authorizers established under this act.”

However, in a strongly worded email to all members of the commission sent June 4, 2019, Mackey changed his tune and points out eight concerns he has with how the Washington County charter, Woodland Prep, approval process has been handled to this point.

These are:

  • Insufficient student enrollment
  • Insufficient number of school administrators, teachers, and staff
  • Facility and building readiness and compliance
  • Financial stability
  • Inaccurate or possibly false information contained in the original application
  • Insufficient statutory parental makeup of the charter school governing board
  • Transparency of the charter school governing board
  • Fierce public opposition

This memo takes on major significance given the fact that the charter commission has a meeting scheduled for 10 a.m on June 7 to consider a request by Woodland Prep. While the charter commission will not reveal the nature of the request, it is widely thought that Woodland Prep intends to ask for a one-year extension of its opening date.

Here is how Mackey addressed the upcoming meeting: “Should Woodland Preparatory request a further extension form the Charter School Commission, I hope you would weigh each of these serious concerns as part of the deliberative process.”

The commission is chaired by Mac Buttram of Huntsville. He is now in the hot seat. Does he ignore Mackey? Or does he delay voting on any request by Woodland Prep?

Buttram is one of the five members of the current board whose terms expired on May 31, 2019. Members may serve until either a replacement is named or they are reappointed. All five of these members may be reappointed.

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Given the circumstances surrounding this situation, it would seem the commission should delay any decisions until a new board is in place. However, since so many of their actions have been questionable to this point, who the heck knows what they may do.

But what we do know is that Mackey’s involvement is long overdue.

The Friday meeting will be by teleconference. For those wishing to listen in, call 1-888-822-7517 and then enter 814512#.


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