North Charleston charter school battling financial challenges

Ahead of new school year, North Charleston charter school battling financial challenges

NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - Along Azalea Drive, in the city of north Charleston stands a school many don't know exists.

Since 2003, Greg Mathis Charter High School has served students at risk of dropping out, and offered them a second chance.

Over the years, the school has battled back from debt, nearly having its charter status revoked, after then Charleston County School board members said staff had not provided financial records, owed money to the district and state education department, also failing to improve student's academic achievement.

Headed into the 2015-16 school year, the school will open its doors under new leadership, first-year principal Natrique Henriques who started as an English teacher at the school six years ago.

"As a charter, your challenges as a school will be different from a traditional school," she said.

Henriques said the school is now out of debt, but still faces many financial challenges, including funding for supplies, teacher salaries, and most of all, transportation.

The Charleston County School District covers training and development costs for staff, and an additional $8,000 per student.  Under charter status, the school is responsible for its own operational costs, also electing its own school board who sets policies for the school and determines operating procedures.

"These are children who unfortunately have had a back turned towards them," added Michelle Melton, Vice-Chair of the board at Greg Mathis Charter High.

"This is really a school, with a heart," she added.

To date, the school has enrolled 47 students for the upcoming school year, with 17 wait-listed, pending a successful transfer from their previous school.

Students currently rely on CARTA, a public transit system, to get there.

"We would love to be able to afford Durham (bus services), but right now we're going with the city bus."

Friday, the school is hosting a fundraiser, an 'Ol Time Barbecue Bash,' selling $10 dollar tickets for a plate of barbecue, with proceeds aimed at offsetting the costs of more reliable transportation.

"Greg Mathis Charter High School is right here on Azalea Drive in North Charleston,' Melton added, 'and we are serving these children.  We are serving our future."

Tickets for the fundraiser are on sale at 2872 Azalea Drive.  The bash is expected to run 11am to 4pm, Friday August 14.

The school is named after famed television judge Greg Mathis, because of its support of his philosophy to re-engage at-risk youth.

Copyright WCSC 2015.  All rights reserved.