BOE: No go on charter girls school
Despite rejection, backers say they aren't giving up

SUWANEE - Proponents of a charter school that would create single-gender classrooms urged the Gwinnett County Board of Education during its monthly business meeting Thursday to approve the school's petition.

But Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks told the board members he believes approval of the petition would put the school district at risk of litigation and recommended they take no further action.

"While we acknowledge the work and determination of the Ivy Preparatory Academy's organizers, as well as their vision of promoting high academic achievement among the school's target population (of middle and high school girls in the Meadowcreek cluster), I cannot recommend further consideration of the Ivy Preparatory Academy charter application," Wilbanks said.

Nina Gilbert, the lead proponent of the charter school, said members of Ivy Prep's founding board were disappointed with Wilbanks' recommendation but still determined to work to open the school.

"The impact (of Wilbanks' proposal) is going to be most felt by the children," Gilbert said. "The founding board will meet and discuss all our options and decide how to proceed."

Board Chairwoman Louise Radloff told petitioners they could apply to the state or reapply to the Gwinnett Board of Education with another petition. Radloff and the other board members said they wished the school's supporters well in their pursuits.

The founding board of Ivy Prep has worked since 2005 on the petition to open the school, and the application is compliant with charter school law, said Gilbert, who is a former Gwinnett County teacher and a Building Excellent Schools fellow.

When developing the school's charter, Ivy Prep's founding board consulted Rosemary Salomone, a St. Johns University law professor who helped draft the federal education amendment that prohibits gender discrimination in programs receiving federal financial assistance. Salomone wrote a letter in June to Gilbert stating her legal opinion that charter school exemptions would allow for single-gender classrooms.

"In view of the foregoing legal analysis, I see no clear impediment in the Title IX statute or regulations that would preclude the establishment of the proposed Ivy Preparatory Academy Charter School," Salomone wrote.

Andrew Lewis of the Georgia Charter Schools Association said single-gender schools are a growing trend in metro Atlanta and in the nation.

Lewis spoke at the meeting in support of Gilbert's petition, saying she "presented a stellar application for a model charter school."

After the meeting, Lewis said he thinks Georgia needs a separate authorizing board for charter school petitioners, especially for those who feel they are in a "hostile district."

Gilbert has said she wants the school to open in 2008 for 108 sixth-grade girls. The school would add a grade level each year.

"The charter is not going to be put away," she said.