Overruling a local school board that twice rejected a charter school application, the Oklahoma Board of Education has unanimously approved a charter that will allow a STEM-themed high school to open in the city of Seminole.
KFOR-TV reports that the state board's action means that it will be the sponsor for the Academy of Seminole. The school plans plan to open for the 2017-18 year with 11th and 12th grades.
“This is a well thought through plan that came from the local community to be able to provide immediate opportunities for students to have their needs met,” says state superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
The academy will be the second charter to open in a rural part of the state since a 2015 law was passed to allow charter schools outside Oklahoma's two largest cities, Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
"The Academy will provide Seminole parents and students with an educational choice," says the charter's board of directors in its appeal to the state. "The Academy will provide a world-class classical/STEM educational experience that will benefit not only the students, but (also) the local economy, as demand exists for STEM students."
The Seminole school board had rejected the charter application in October 2016 and again in December.
The charter school idea started in part with Seminole businessman Paul Campbell, who said he couldn't find enough employees for his aerospace company because of the poor quality of the education system.
The superintendent of the Seminole district says the local board denied the charter application in part because they didn’t have enough community support.
Superintendent Alfred Gaches said in a letter to the charter applicants that most of the evidence of support for the charter school—written petitions, online petitions and Facebook "likes"—came from people outside Seminole.
“It’s a fact that 1.4 percent is their gathering point, is how much support they’ve been able to gather," Gaches says "And, we in Seminole do not feel, the Seminole Public Schools, that that is enough to force a charter school on our community,”
But support for the academy was evident at the state school board meeting. Almost 100 people wearing blue t-shirts that said Academy of Seminole, and the meeting was so crowded that people were spilling out into the hallway.
Video from KFOR-TV: