Parents attend info session on charter school

SNELLVILLE - As a former special education teacher, Monise Seward said she knows the importance of getting - and keeping - parents involved in their children's education.

Seward, who is trying to open a visual and performing arts charter school in southern Gwinnett County, met Wednesday evening with about a dozen parents interested in enrolling their children in Millennium Scholars Academy, answering questions about the types of programs that will be offered at the proposed school.

The Snellville resident said she was especially excited to hear questions from a seventh-grader interested in how the school will handle gifted education.

"I want to give some of the ownership to the students," Seward said. "They're the ones sitting in the classes - not me. They know what they like. They know what they want to do."

Seward said she hopes to open the K-12 school in late July with 185 students. So far, 100 students have committed to enrolling in the school, which would offer kindergarten through ninth grade in its initial year.

While Seward, the governing board and interested parents are moving forward in their plans for the school, the state Board of Education has not yet approved the school's charter. Seward said she expects the board will make its decision by late January or early February.

Seward submitted her application to the state board after the Gwinnett County Board of Education rejected her petition in June, citing concerns about funding.

If Millennium Scholars Academy becomes a state-chartered special school, it will only receive state tax dollars. Because the school would not get a portion of the county tax dollars, the funding per student would be about $2,800, about half of what Gwinnett County Public Schools spends per student.

To ensure the school is financially viable, the school has started a fund-raising campaign, with a goal of collecting $250,000 - or $25 from 10,000 people, Seward said.

India McCollum, a Loganville resident who home schools her child, said there is a need for a school like Millennium Scholars Academy in the Snellville area. Although there are private schools in the area, some parents can't afford to pay tuition, she said.

"Public schools teach to one learning style," she said. "(Students) are just a number."