The man behind the success of Winston-Salem’s Quality Education Academy (QEA) is putting his weight behind another charter school.
The College Preparatory and Leadership Academy of High Point, or The Point, opened in August, becoming one of the first new charters to open after the General Assembly voted to lift the 100-charter school cap in North Carolina.
QEA opened in the 1990s and was one of the state’s first charter schools. Simon Johnson co-founded the school, which is known for high academic achievement.
More than 90 percent of QEA students passed end of grade tests in the 2009-10 school year and more than 80 percent of them passed in 2010-11. Johnson said his next goal for QEA is for 100 percent of his students to go on to pursue higher education. As a consultant at The Point, he has equally lofty goals for Guilford County students.
“I just wanted to do something to make a difference, particularly for the children who were coming from my community and similar communities,” he said.
The Point is currently located inside the massive Christian City Church in Greensboro, which is providing it with full facilities, including an auditorium, lunchroom and about a dozen classrooms. Plans are in the works to get The Point its own permanent building in High Point.
The Point’s school leader, similar to a principal at a traditional public school, is Johnson’s daughter-in-law, Dr. Michelle Johnson, who brings 15 years of experience in both public school and higher education to the new charter.
“Parents in our community in High Point wanted us to start a school here … because they wanted a different choice for their children, some of them were commuting to Winston-Salem to QEA and they thought the community could benefit from a charter school in the area,” said Michelle Johnson, a former QEA teacher whose daughter attended QEA and now attends The Point.
There are currently 14 staffers and 113 students at The Point. Michelle Johnson says the school will take all who apply to enter the school until its reaches its capacity of 250 students.
Charter schools are still controversial. Some believe that they take students and funding from traditional schools; others say charters are creating innovative educational models that are allowing many, especially children of color, to succeed. Raleigh-based Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) argues the latter. The organization, along with educational freedom group Partners for Developing Futures presented Simon and Michelle Johnson with a check for $150,000 for startup funds for The Point. PEFNC, a non profit, is looking to fund other charters that propose creative ways to educate children of color.
On the other hand, the North Carolina Justice Center, a progressive research and advocacy organization, has voiced concern about many of the new schools that have applied for charters from the State Board of Education. In a letter to various state government and education officials, the group said many of the new charter schools lack transportation for students and access for at-risk students. The Point was not one of the schools cited. The school provides a school bus to shuttle students to and from school. Like QEA, the vast majority of its students are African American or Hispanic and come from low income families.
Simon Johnson said that concerns over traditional public schools losing money is unfounded. He argues that since money is allocated on a per-student basis, when a student leaves a school, the money follows, as does the school’s expense of educating that student.
“From a financial standpoint, if you don’t have the student, why would you need the money?” said Simon Johnson, who added that charter schools actually get less money than traditional schools and have to raise their own funds to purchase or build facilities.
Michelle Johnson said that new charter schools will benefit parents by giving them more educational choices. She said she hopes to see many parents take advantage of what The Point has to offer.
“It feels like, I think, a dream come true, not just for us as educators but for parents as well, at least that’s what they say, that it’s a dream come true, they’ve finally found a place where their child really fits and they have a choice where their child can attend school,” said Johnson, the former chair of the English and Foreign Language Department at Livingstone College.
For more information or to apply to The Point, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.thepointcollegeprep.org” www.thepointcollegeprep.org or call the school at 336-264-5573.