Roy L. Williams
Hoover School Board
The school board considers authorizing charter schools.
Hoover City Schools has decided not to become a charter school authorizer, Superintendent Kathy Murphy said.
Under the charter school legislation signed into law in March, public school systems had the option to become “authorizers” of charter schools in their districts - basically having a say in who can form charter schools in their cities. But the law required public school systems to decide by Tuesday, Sept. 1.
Though State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice has extended the deadline two weeks beyond Sept. 1 for Public Charter School authorization, Murphy said even with the extension, “my concern remains that we are being asked to make a decisive decision, affecting our children and school system, in the absence of critical information.”
The Hoover Board of Education on Aug. 19 held a long discussion of the pros and cons of becoming a charter school authorizer, then tabled a decision until the superintendent could gather more information from other superintendents across the state and from officials with the Public Charter School Commission, which will oversee Alabama charter schools.
Derrick Murphy, president of the Hoover Board of Education, said he agrees with the superintendent’s decision against being a charter school authorizer.
"Due to the unknowns regarding charter schools received from the State department, it would be premature for our district to consider becoming a charter authorizer this year," he said.
The Alabama Public Charter School Commission met last week for organizational purposes, and Murphy said the meeting - the group’s first - “in no way enhanced our ability to make the authorization decision.”
The State Department of Education Office of Public Charter Schools will meet in October to establish "preliminary" guidelines.
Superintendent Murphy said she has some concerns about charter schools, including the fact that each public charter school will have its own governing board with exemption from local board policies and procedures and state guidelines.
“Should we choose to be an authorizer, we are incurring liability for the charter governing board,” Murphy said. “I am reluctant to ask our board to incur liability for another governing entity that may exercise exemption from our policies and procedures. As superintendent, I need a better understanding of the human and financial resources required of our school district.”
In becoming an authorizer, a school system must actively solicit charter schools. Professionally, Superintendent Murphy said she doesn’t believe a charter school has the capacity to educate children in Hoover better than public schools in the city can.
“Hoover City Schools address struggling learners, reluctant learners and gifted learners,” she said. “Our high schools have academies for finance, engineering, health, law and information technology. We are a leader in the state with integrating technology through our Engaged Learning Initiative (ELI), and our school district has been using virtual education for some time.”
In addition, the superintendent said, the Hoover school district has multiple International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement and dual enrollment opportunities along with multiple offerings in foreign languages. Students also have many opportunities to engage in visual and performing arts, Murphy said, adding that when there is a need, Hoover City Schools finds a solution.
“As is true of any superintendent in the state, I want to be at the table when matters are discussed relative to our students and our school district,” the superintendent said. “But when I get to the table, I want to understand the menu, and I want to know the cost of what I'm buying. In the case of public charter schools, neither what we are ordering nor the price are clear to me. I am willing to take calculated risks, but I am unwilling to guess my way through this important process.”