Midway’s council met in workshop mode on Thursday, June 5 to deal with the city’s proposed charter school. City manager Dot Inman-Johnson told the board that she is trying to get real numbers for the younger people they want to serve at the school. She said it’s been difficult; that she has found that Midway has 1,204 households, of which 39.9% are under the age of 18.
Council member Delores Madison said the manager could get the numbers for the ages the city is looking to attract through the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity. “I don’t think we should spend our limited resources before a facility is built,” she said.
Midway has a high poverty rate, with few jobs or businesses, Inman-Johnson said.
Charter school advisory board chairman Ronald Colston said he thinks the city should approve his committee getting a grant writer as soon as possible.
Councilman Chuck Willis said advisory board members are trying to move forward too fast; that the city needs to develop policies and procedures first.
“I don’t have a problem with the advisory committee at all. But the governing board (the council) is in charge. We need training; we need to think about what our responsibilities are and what we need to hand down to the committee. Decisions need to come from the governing board,” said Willis.
“It’s not your job or responsibility to hire a grant writer.”
“We don’t want to put the cart before the horse. I understand Mr. Colston’s frustrations, but we need to get together (as a council),” said Madison.
“Decisions will still be the governing board’s responsibility. The city manager and the advisory committee will still be working on this,” said Mayor David Knight.
Millie Forehand, one of the founders of Crossroad Academy charter school in Quincy, addressed the council. City manager Dot Inman-Johnson introduced her, saying “she is our role model in Gadsden County on opening a charter school and staffing it.”
“We started with 15 students the first year, 30 the second and were up to 60,” said Forehand. “We saw a need to ‘grow’ our own students, so we changed to pre-K to 8th graders and have 225 students. We amassed capital outlay money as best we could.”
“We never got a grant for a facility so we got a USDA facility loan because we needed to expand,” Forehand continued. “The requirements mean really tightening your belts and toeing the line. Your reputations will be on the line. You have to get the organizational structure in your ordinance. You need to know charter school law. You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself.”
The city manager said there is no grant available for a facility. “There will be startup money once the school is in place. You’ll have debt service (on loans) to build a school. You’ll need fundraising and loans. We already have $200,000 (approved) for the USDA loan for the senior center, and the revolving loan of $500,000 for the sewer service,” said Inman-Johnson.
“I recommend that you not build the school first but find a location. See how this can be accomplished. You’ll have to fight every step of the way. You don’t want to step out there too soon. There are lots of people waiting for you to fail,” said Forehand.