All socio-economic levels welcome at UC charter schools
Kevin Costner, in “Field of Dreams,” is said to have uttered the axiom, “build it and they will come.” Monroe Charter Academy (MCA) built it, but as its doors have opened for the second school year, and despite a remarkably successful academic opening year, the enrollment is sorely below what was hoped for by its founders.
The school is a K-5 public charter school on Tomberlin St., located across East Roosevelt Blvd. from Atrium Health Union, a location chosen to address families from underserved neighborhoods and to thus achieve economic and racial diversity.
Let me share some charter history in Union County.
On August 15, 2000, Union Academy (UA) opened the county’s initial charter school doors for its first full day of school. As that school’s co-founder and board Vice Chair, I and the other board members were astounded to have received 420 student applications for our 300 available first year slots!
UA has since risen to become one of the largest charters in North Carolina and has developed a nationally acclaimed character education program.
More charters suddenly, albeit much later, finally appeared in the county in 2018; Union Prep in Indian Trail, Union Day in Weddington, followed by Apprentice Academy High School, in west Monroe, and Monroe Charter Academy, last year.
Today UA has only 21.5% of its enrollment made up of Hispanic or Black students. It should be noted that Union Day serves 23% Black and Hispanic, about the same percentage as UA. The other 2018 starting charter, Indian Trail’s Union Prep, serves more minorities, at 38%.
With those numbers in mind, I and others wanted a new charter school with much more racial diversity because it was clear that the city of Monroe was under-represented in all the west-serving charters. After all, the city of Monroe’s population is 52% Black and Hispanic.
Children living in the inner-city of Monroe are under-represented in Union County’s public charter schools. One reason was UA’s starting off with mostly families west of the Old Shiloh School location. Another reason is simply that the new charters are located in the west and may not offer enough transportation to Monroe.
I personally was involved, to varying extents, in the creation of all these schools, and can say that they all have opened their doors to those who wanted to attend their schools, following North Carolina law, and have gone beyond that to accommodate students with less access.
This brings me back to Monroe Charter Academy. It was designed to appeal to all socio-economic groups. We had two of the UA original board members at MCA; Jim Stegall, and me. We have a diverse set of board members, administrators, and teachers. We put our facilities in east Monroe. Frankly, we did not think we would have to oversell. We thought “they would come.”
Our scholars are 77% minority. That is twice the rate of any other Union County charter. But the question remains, “Why do we only have 110 students?” Remember UA opened with 300 twenty years ago!
Here is the “ask.”
I ask the Black and Hispanic leadership of Monroe to come visit our school and our exceptional principal, Dr. Camela Ford. Tour our classrooms, talk to parents, teachers, and students. Find out why our classical education program is perfectly suited for at risk students. Read about us at monroecharteracademt.org.
Then, only if you are satisfied, use your influence to encourage families to look for themselves. Monroe children and families deserve a quality charter school option too.
We have one waiting!
2132 Greenbrook Pkwy.