The Alabama Public Charter School Commission yesterday voted to deny a request by Woodland Prep officials to extend the deadline to obtain a certificate of occupancy for the school in Washington County near Mobile.
This denial could begin the process of revoking the school’s charter. The charter school was initially approved in 2018.
The Woodland Prep charter school has been a source of controversy for Washington County, with reports of threats against supporters of the school and an online petition against the charter school with over 1,600 signatures.
In August, the Alabama Education Association filed a lawsuit against Soner Tarim, a Texas-based man seeking to open the charter school.
Tarim is the CEO of Unity School Services and was the founder of Harmony Schools, a charter school network in Texas.
The lawsuit claimed that Tarim engaged in fraudulent conduct to conceal the extent of his involvement with the non-profit organization that is allegedly behind the creation of Woodland Prep.
The lawsuit also claimed Tarim misrepresented the level of community support for the school and advertised illegally in Mississippi in an attempt to attract enough students to be able to open the school.
The opening of Woodland Prep was delayed for the 2019-2020 school year after Tarim was unable to complete construction of the school and failed to secure sufficient enrollment. The school was originally set to open in the fall of 2019 with grades K through 7th and add a grade level each year to eventually become a pre K through 12th grade school.
The Alabama Education Association (AEA) commended the Alabama Public Charter School Commission for the decision to deny the extension.
AEA Associate Executive Director Theron Stokes called the decision “a great day for public education in Alabama”
“Instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing out of rural Alabama and into corporate coffers in Texas, that money will stay in a school district that, despite its disadvantages, is succeeding in providing a quality education to its students,” Stokes said in a statement. “The new members of the Charter School Commission have made clear that they take seriously their mandate under the law to police charter schools and we stand ready to assist them in that effort. AEA hopes this will send a message to the judge in the case, to allow the plaintiffs in the lawsuit to go forward to validate that what the defendants were trying to do to the public-school students in Washington County was wrong.”