All-boy charter school could close doors for good; decision to be made Tuesday

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A specialized charter school is fearful its doors will close for good.

In a Charleston County School District hearing on Tuesday, the district will decide if Prestige Preparatory Academy will lose its charter.

The school is an all-boy charter school in North Charleston that has 54 students.

This is the school's second year since it opened, and teachers said they already seeing a difference in more than their grades.

"When I came in a lot of my boys had behavior issues and they would come in and say they're bad," said second grade teacher Kristen Broderick. "I got that out of their heads and now they say,'There are no bad kids there are just kids.' They are starting to feel good about themselves."

CCSD sent the school a letter about possibly revoking its charter. Complaints stemming from financial and academic goals.

Prestige founder and principal Joyce Coleman said the letter also said the school needed to get enrollment up.

"We've got a plan that I think is a good plan," Coleman said.

Coleman said the school has faced obstacles from the beginning.

"We got our charter and had 45 days to open the school," said Coleman. "Originally, we planned to go with 105 students that we had enrolled and the teaching staff we had of certified teachers. With 45 days before the school year started many students went elsewhere and that left us with trying to gather students at the last minute and trying to create a staff."

Coleman said those obstacles are still being overcome.

"We had a lot of obstacles standing in our way just to get off to a good start and our scores are not where we want them to be, but that doesn't mean we didn't try. Or we're not still trying," said Coleman.

When comparing the charter school to public schools in close proximity within the district, there are similarities.

Chicora Elementary, which is just a couple miles away, tested at 10.9% on the 'exceeds and meets' expectations categories on the SC Ready Math tests.

Prestige tested at 6.7%. The overall district tests at 45.7%.

CCSD Board member Chris Collins says it takes 3 to 5 years to get a new school up and running.

Collins said in Charleston County, African American males are the lowest performing of all students.

He said if the charter is revoked, Prestige students go back to the schools they wanted to leave, and their future becomes gloomy.

Collins said he would be voting to keep the school up and running.

He said he talked with some board members who said they would give it a fair chance, while others have made up their minds they want to close.

"For our children this is like their second home a lot of them," Broderick said. "They're working really hard and I feel like it's almost diminishing their progress and their growth by saying they didn't meet a standard. It's more important, where were they, where were they in August? Let's not just look at where you want them to be but where were they then."

The boys who attend Prestige are in school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the kids are fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

For some boys, they said they wouldn't want to go back to their schools they came from.

"I would stay home schooled because I don't' want to go to another school because this school is just for me," fourth grader Brandon Stanley said.

"I have a young man who told me the other day, he says,'You know if they close this school I'm going to open another Prestige and I'm going to have ten thousand boys waiting to get in.' I just chuckled and said,'One day,'" said Coleman.

The hearing will take place 3 p.m. Tuesday at 75 Calhoun Street.

If it is voted that the school will not continue the charter, it will close its doors at the end of the school year.

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