Superintendent: Charter could close one Dothan school

Charter schools, while publicly funded, are private schools. They have their own administration but, like public schools, do not charge tuition.
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 6:15 AM CDT

DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -Dothan could lose one public school if a church receives approval of its charter school plans, the city’s superintendent predicts.

“That (approval) would create a negative impact on the (Dothan) public school system,” Dr. Dennis Coe told News 4 on Tuesday.

Greater Beulah Baptist Church has applied for a charter permit and plans to outline its polarizing proposal during a public hearing tonight (Wednesday).

About 250 students in grades kindergarten through fifth are projected to attend Barnabas School of Leadership.

Its funding would come from public education dollars and possibly cost Dothan City schools between two and three million dollars in funding annually, Coe predicts.

“That’s going to force us to make decisions. We are going to have to make personnel decisions, and decisions about possible closure of schools,” he said.

Watch Dr. Coe’s interview in the video player above this story.

Dothan has one high school and a sole campus for 7th and 8th graders, putting lower grade schools at risk.

Rezoning is also possible, meaning students must travel longer distances to attend classes.

Alabama lawmakers in 2015 passed legislation expanding school choice for Alabama children and their families.

Charter schools, while publicly funded, are privately operated. They have their own administration but, like public schools, do not charge tuition, instead relying on tax dollars for operational costs.

About a dozen charters will operate in the state when the new academic year begins next month but Barnabas, if approved by a state oversight commission, would become the first in southeast Alabama.

Charter schools receive mixed reviews with some studies revealing they improve test scores for inner-city students, but others claim charters dilute the quality of public education.

Dr. Coe believes the latter would be the case in Dothan and plans to speak in adamant opposition to Greater Beulah’s plan during the public hearing.

“If we take 250 kids out of our classrooms we’re going to have to reorganize,” he said

Dr. Coe believes most Dothan school board members support his stance, but there is one wild card.

Board member Dr. Franklin Jones (Dist.-2), a Greater Beulah leader, admits he knew of his church’s plans but claims he has not become involved in them.

But Dr. Jones also did not alert his fellow school board members about what his church intends to do.

The Alabama Education Association is also expected to oppose Barnabas’ creation.

What: Barnabas School of Leadership public hearing

Where: Greater Beulah Baptist Church, 254 Headland Ave., Dothan

When: There are conflicting reports. The meeting will begin at either 6:00p or 6:30p.

Who can attend: This is a state-organized meeting so anyone has the right to be present

When decision be made on charter permit: Unknown

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