• Mission

    The mission of University Charter School is to be a rural, diverse K-12 school that cultivates independent thought, promotes the building of character and civic responsibility and is committed to preparing all students for personal and professional success through the discovery of individual learning pathways in a rigorous and integrated Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STREAM) focused, project-based and place-based curriculum.

     

     

    Vision

    The vision of University Charter School is to become a rural model for producing adaptable learners that have a strong sense of place, mission and rural identity who recognize the value of collaboration within a school, across a community, and between diverse rural regions. 

     

    Purpose

    The purpose of University Charter School is to spark a "Rural Renewal" within the Black Belt region that ultimately leads to a thriving rural landscape and enhanced community pride. Education has always been and continues to be a starting point for meaningful change leading to increased economic development and improved quality of life.

     

    Strategic Plan

    The strategic plan, R3 is inspired by Accelerate Alabama's three economic drivers: Recruitment, Retention, and Renewal. 

    Work together to bolster Recruitment of community support and future community leaders

    • Reframe the rural narrative and emphasize the positive aspect of the rural experience and rural education
    • Create rural leaders that have a more comprehensive understanding of rural issues related to the economy, environment, and justice.

    Work together on  addressing Retention issues

    • Improve drop-out rates
    • Create a safe school environment
    • Create a sense of belonging for students

    Work together to spark  Rural Renewal in the community

    • Promote rural community and business growth and development
    • Spark innovation and entrepreneurship
    • Redefine "rural identity" and encourage community pride
     

        

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

     

    1.    What is the need for a charter school? 

    A charter school provides an alternative to students and parents. According to the Alabama Kid's Count Data Book, there are more than 2,500 K-12 students in Sumter County. Of this number, just over 1,700 are associated with a school located in Sumter County. This reveals a deficit of more than 800 students who are either enrolled in a school system outside Sumter County or not enrolled at all. The establishment of a charter school in Sumter County gives those students another educational option.

    The alternative may be based on different methodology, innovation, best practices, or many other variables. For students, a charter school can make the difference in following strict rules and regulations to merely meet a standard and the alternative, which is thriving in a quality educational environment where each student's needs and abilities are measured on an individual basis and enhanced through a wide variety of instruction, enrichment, and extracurricular activities.

      

    2.    Why is the University interested in steering the establishment of a charter school?

    The University's mission includes improving the region through education and outreach, and it is believed that, in addition to its own educational programs for traditional and non-traditional college students, the University can go a step further to help establish an entity that creates opportunities and access to an enhanced model of education for a younger generation, thereby more directly improving economic and workforce development opportunities, as well as the overall quality of life for a much greater population.

     

    3.    How does a charter school meet the needs of the region?

    Research shows that Sumter County is threatened by a growing list of challenges:

    ·       Depopulation, steadily declining over the last 60 years

    ·       Social and capital flights

    ·       Farm consolidation

    ·       Loss of business and industry

    ·       Skilled workforce shortages

    ·       Overall decline in child well-being, according to VOICES 2015

    Education is a proven catalyst for change. The overall goal is to meet the needs of the current population by offering additional educational opportunities. By placing strong emphasis on recruitment, retention, and renewal, the proposed school can not only improve the quality of life for people who are already here, but also those who can be drawn to the area because of the vast opportunities that can, and will, be created through a proposed charter school. The school can create strong foundations in early childhood and secondary education that will prepare students for success beyond the classroom, whether the paths they choose be college or career.

      

    4.    How is a charter school funded?

    Charter schools are funded the same way as traditional public schools on a per-pupil basis. Public charter schools will receive federal, state, and a portion of local funds associated with each child enrolled at the public charter school, as mandated by SB45. Additional funds can be generated through grants and private fundraising efforts.

      

    5.    What funding is this school going to take away from Sumter County Public Schools?

    State education funding belongs to the individual child and the per-pupil funding follows the student to the school they choose to attend. For students not previously enrolled in Sumter County Public Schools, per-pupil funding will not be lost.

     

     6.    Does money allocated to charter schools come out of the existing local school districts' budgets?

    No. Money allocated to charter schools does not come out of the existing local school districts' budgets. The state and the federal government allocate education funds based on the number of students, their grade level and their needs. If a student chooses to go to a charter school, the money is allocated to the charter school to educate that student. In other words, the money follows the student. It is the student's money, not the district's.

     

    7.    What are the laws governing a charter school?

    Laws governing charter schools vary from state to state. In Alabama, SB45: The Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act authorized the creation of public charter schools in Alabama. A public charter school is not subject to the state's education statutes or any state or local rule, regulation, policy or procedure related to non-charter public schools. A public charter school is subject to all state and federal laws and authorities related to safety, health, and civil rights.  Public charter schools are required to administer the same statewide standardized assessments as non-charter public schools.

    8.    Do charter schools charge tuition?

    No. A charter school is tuition free. Like most other schools, various extracurricular programs may carry a cost.

     

    9.    Who can attend a charter school?

    Charter schools in Alabama are open to all Alabama residents and do not discriminate on any basis.

     

    10. Where will the charter school be located?

    It is expected that a charter school initially would be housed on campus.

     

    11. What is the anticipated enrollment capacity of the charter school, and what criteria determines this?

    The capacity will be determined by several variables, the most important being facility accommodations. The enrollment capacity will be established in the application. This capacity can be adjusted on a yearly basis according to demand, and the Board of Directors will continually address this.

     

    12. Are students outside Sumter County eligible for enrollment?

    Yes. If the school is not at capacity following the initial enrollment period for Sumter County students, any student who is a resident of Alabama will be eligible to enroll.

     

    13. Is the school only open to students whose parents or guardians are UWA employees? Will those students automatically be accepted?

    No. Enrollment is open first to families who live in Sumter County. Following the initial enrollment period, if the school is not at capacity, a subsequent enrollment period will be open to any Alabama residents.

                                                                                  

    14. Will preference be given to UWA Campus School students?

    No. Enrollment is open first to families who live in Sumter County. Following the initial enrollment period, if the school is not at capacity, a subsequent enrollment period will be open to any Alabama residents.

     

    15. Will preference be given to students whose siblings will have been enrolled in the charter school in prior years?

    Yes. Students in families already enrolled and meeting state residency requirements will be eligible to enroll if they have siblings enrolled.

      

    16. What is the anticipated enrollment?

    Enrollment will be estimated through an assessment of the interest surveys that are collected. Anyone who has interest in enrolling at the proposed charter school should indicate this interest on the survey in order to help the committee determine an accurate estimate.

     

    17. Who gets a copy of the interest survey?

    The interest survey is maintained by the steering committee for data collection purposes only. Data from the interest inventory will be used to gauge demand, support, and issues, but contributors will not be identified.      

     

    18. What grades will the charter school include?

    University Charter School is expected to be open to students in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grade in the first year (Fall of 2018) and add grades 6-12 in the second year (Fall of 2019). If interested in enrollment, you are encouraged to complete the interest survey for students of all ages or grades, as this information will be used to determine the opening grade structure for the Fall 2018 school year.

     

    19. What is the expected relationship of a charter school and UWA Campus School?

    None. University Charter School and UWA Campus School will operate independently.

     

    20. Have the instructional approaches and concepts for the proposed charter school already been attempted at other schools?

    Yes. Faculty and students from various University departments and organizations collaborate with area schools. Specifically, UWA's Julia S. Tutwiler College of Education works collaboratively with area school students and teachers as opportunities are available. UWA has partnered with and will continue to partner with area schools to implement in accordance with the Alabama Course of Study the use of a variety of instructional approaches and concepts, such as:

    ·       Inquiry-based learning

    ·       Experiential based / student-initiated projects

    ·       Subject integration

    ·       Technology innovation

    ·       Real world application

    ·       STREAM focus

    ·       Literacy centered focus

    ·       Emphasis on character education

     

    21. How can the charter school positively impact the community?

    University Charter School is expected to be another educational option for families in Sumter County. Programs developed at the school could foster partnerships with existing schools through extracurricular activities, professional development, and an enhanced overall culture of learning experiences, strengthened by a growing number of students enrolled in school in the county. University Charter School can also enhance economic development opportunities and facilitate business and industry recruitment, thereby positively impacting the overall standard of living and quality of life.

     

    22. What are the standards for teachers at the school?

    Teachers will be expected to uphold the school's mission and vision, demonstrating a strong commitment to innovative instruction in collaboration with families and the community. Highly effective teachers will be held to standards and requirements established to raise student achievement levels.

     

    23. What is STREAM?

    STREAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. The school will place strong emphasis on STREAM programs.

     

    24. Who will teach at the school?

    Teaching positions will be advertised as required by federal and state laws and open to all qualified individuals. Teachers from existing schools in the county will be encouraged to apply if interested.

     

    25. What is the governance structure of the school and who oversees its daily operations?

    A non-profit corporation is being established to open and operate the proposed charter school. This entity will be separate and distinct from the University of West Alabama and will be governed by a Board of Directors, which will be comprised of parents of students attending the Charter School and local and regional community leaders.

     

    26. What is the financial structure for supporting the school's facilities?

    University Charter School's facilities will be supported from various funding sources. Those sources include state appropriations, grants, and private fundraising. 

     

    27. Who will fund the start-up of the school? Will this be funded through the University?

     Costs associated with the start-up of the Charter School are anticipated to be minimal. While most of these costs will be raised through external sources, the University may contribute some services at the outset. 

       

    28. Are charter schools eligible for Title I funds?

    Yes. Charter schools are eligible for Title I funding if eligibility requirements as specified by federal regulations are met.      

     

    29. What services do charter schools offer for students with behavior modification rulings?

    Public charter schools are responsible for and committed to serving students with special needs. Similar to the process for serving students in a traditional public school, an Individualized Education Program Team is responsible for making a determination as to the most appropriate services based on the needs of the student. The proposed charter school will demonstrate a strong commitment to providing quality and compliant special education services that are tailored to meet the unique needs of every student.

     

    30. Is there a required test to be accepted for enrollment?

    No.

     

    31. Who or what will conduct performance reviews?
     

    The Alabama Public Charter School Commission is an independent state agency that will serve as the authorizer for the proposed charter school. The APCSC will execute a charter contract with the governing board of the proposed charter school. Charter contracts must include academic and operational performance indicators, measures and metrics that will guide the authorizer's evaluations of each public charter school. This includes, at a minimum, student academic proficiency, student academic growth, achievement gaps, attendance, enrollment, postsecondary readiness, financial performance and sustainability, board performance and stewardship. The performance framework will guide the APCSC's evaluation of the proposed public charter school. Annual performance reports will be required and a charter may be renewed on five-year terms. 

     

     32. What determines failing or passing status?

    The performance provisions within the charter contract shall be based on a performance framework that clearly sets forth the academic and operational performance indicators, measures, and metrics that will guide the authorizer's evaluations of each public charter school. The performance framework shall include indicators, measures, and metrics for, at a minimum:

    a.     Student academic proficiency, which includes, but is not limited to, performance on state standardized assessments.

    b.     Student academic growth, which includes, but is not limited to, performance on state standardized assessments.

    c.     Achievement gaps in both proficiency and growth between major student subgroups.

    d.     Attendance.

    e.     Recurrent enrollment from year to year.

    f.      Postsecondary readiness for high schools.

    g.     Financial performance and sustainability.

    h.     Board performance and stewardship, including compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and terms of the charter contract.


    Annual performance targets shall be set by each public charter school in conjunction with its authorizer, and shall be designed to help each school meet applicable federal, state, and authorizer expectations.

     

    33. Are students dismissed from the school if they are not performing satisfactorily in academics or if their parents are not involved per requirements?

    No.

     

    34. What transportation will be available?

    Transportation services provided by the charter school will be determined by the transportation needs of the enrolled students.  Because the costs associated with providing transportation to such a large catchment area, a full-service bus system may not be possible.  Other alternatives will be explored in order to maximize access such as the arrangement of a carpool network with the possibility of offering stipends to parents who volunteer their time and resources. 

      

    35. Why is the school opening in phases instead of all grades at once?

    Currently there are no available state, local or federal funds to cover the start-up costs associated with opening a start-up charter school in the State of Alabama.  Therefore, start-up charter schools choose to phase in grades for financial feasibility. 

     

    36. Is there a plan for sports at the charter school? Who will the school compete with in sports?

    Yes. University Charter School will offer sports. Athletic teams will compete in the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

     

    37. Would the pay scale follow the matrix set by the state? Are the benefits the same?

    Yes. Employees at University Charter School will be paid according to the State Minimum Salary Schedule.  Employees in start-up public charter schools are eligible for participation in retirement and other benefits programs of the state.

     

    38.  Will there be professional development requirements for teachers?

    Yes. Public charter schools shall comply with applicable federal laws, rules, and regulations regarding the qualification of teachers and other instructional staff.  Professional Development will be provided for all teachers.

     

    39. Will the charter school offer the same support as public school?

    Public charter schools are public schools of choice.  Families and community members are welcomed in public  charter  schools  and  are  treated  as  partners  in  their  child's  education.  As public schools, public charter schools  are  required  to  enroll  and  serve  students  with  disabilities  in  the  same  manner  as traditional  public  schools. Because  public  charter  schools  are  designed  to offer innovative  educational strategies, they  are  uniquely  situated  to  provide  individualized  support  to  meet  the  needs  of  students with disabilities and other unique challenges.  All funding associated with a special education student will follow that student to a public charter school.  Public  charter  schools  must  provide  related  services  (e.g.,  speech  and  language  therapy, occupational  and/or physical therapy) as determined necessary by the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team in order for the student to receive a free and appropriate education (FAPE).    All  related  service  providers  at  public  charter  schools  must  comply  with  all  professional licensure and certification requirements.

    The Alabama State Department of Education will distribute funding to public charter schools for transportation in the same manner as transportation funding is distributed to local school systems.

    The ALSDE will direct the proportionate share of moneys generated under federal and state categorical aid programs to public charter schools serving students eligible for such aid.  Each public charter school that serves students who may be eligible to receive services provided through such programs will comply with all reporting requirements to receive the aid.  Public charter schools will receive 100% of federal funds associated with each child enrolled at the public charter school.

      

    40. Will there be a gifted program?

    Yes. If there is a need for a gifted program, one will be established.

     

    41. Will the school be on an August to May schedule?  

    Yes.

     

    42. Will students be required to wear uniforms?

    Yes. Parents will be expected to provide uniforms according to the established guide.

     

    43. Will the proposed charter school offer a special needs program, including therapy? If so, what therapies will be available, and how will those be funded? 

    Yes. A list of services is not available at this time, as services will be directly linked to the needs of students. Once students and needs are identified, services will be provided.

    State and federal funds will be used to provide the best strategies and services for students with special needs. Additionally, grant funds will be sought to supplement state/federal funds to provide the best interventions to meet the individual needs of each student.

    Like all public schools, public charter schools have a responsibility to serve all students, including students with special needs and those who are gifted. In fact, because public charter schools are designed to have more flexibility than traditional public schools, many are uniquely situated to provide innovative, high-quality educational services to students with unique learning needs. Public charter schools must provide related services (e.g., speech and language therapy, occupational and/or physical therapy) as determined necessary by the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team in order for the student to receive a free and appropriate education (FAPE). All related service providers at public charter schools must comply with all professional licensure and certification requirements.

     

    44. What is the relationship between the proposed school and the Sumter County Board of Education?

    The proposed charter school will function as its own independent local education agency (LEA) and will be governed by its own board of directors, appointed or selected under the terms of the charter application for the entirety of its existence. This board would have clear statutory authority to operate a fiscally and legally autonomous school. The proposed school will be operated by a non-profit corporation that is a separate legal entity from both the University of West Alabama and the Sumter County Board of Education.

    Alabama law provides all local school boards the opportunity to apply to become an authorizer of public charter schools in their district.  However, the SCBOE currently is not an approved authorizer. Therefore, the Alabama Public Charter School Commission will serve as the charter authorizer for the proposed charter school for the entirety of its existence.

     

    45. What is the approach to student discipline for the school?

    The approach to discipline for the proposed school includes fostering excellent school-wide behavior that is rooted in its core values: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Character Education & Development. Guiding principles include a "Rethink Discipline" Campaign and the Responsive Classroom. Implementation includes professional development and learning opportunities for the School and Home Community. Ideally, this approach will maximize the time students are in school and learning (implement effective alternatives to suspension/expulsion), cultivate systems that acknowledge and remedy the root causes of students’ and educators’ challenges in school, institute equitable disciplinary systems, and engage the entire school community in professional development and accountability systems that encourage alignment on the school’s intended processes and cultural goals.

    The proposed school will implement practices that promote good choices, including both penalties for infractions and incentives for positive behavior. The primary objective of a rigorous Student Code of Conduct is to create a safe and supportive learning environment to ensure academic success. School safety will be held to the highest regard at the proposed school. The proposed discipline policy includes a list and definition of the offenses and behaviors for which students can be disciplined. These offenses will be categorized according to the severity of the offense and consequences, and corrective strategies will be delineated accordingly. Punishable offenses range in severity from excessive talking and classroom disruption to criminal misconduct. Corrective strategies and consequences for such offenses also range in severity from a simple redirection or verbal warning to out of school suspension and expulsion. A list and definitions of the offenses for which students in the school must (where non-discretionary) and may (where discretionary) be suspended or expelled will be provided. The proposed policy includes an explanation of how the school will take into account the rights of students with disabilities in disciplinary actions and proceedings, as well as procedures for due process when a student is suspended or expelled as a result of a code of conduct violation or disciplinary rules or regulations.

     

    46. Can a student be expelled or dismissed for disciplinary reasons?

    Yes. If a student does not follow the proposed school's Student Code of Conduct, and they commit an offense that carries the consequence of expulsion, they can be recommended for expulsion from the school.


    47. How does the proposed school ensure diversity in school programs?

    The proposed school will offer equitable educational opportunities that represent various cultures and backgrounds. 

     

    If you have a question about the proposed charter school that is not answered in the FAQ above, you may submit a question to the steering committee. Please note that thorough answers may not yet be developed for some questions, but the FAQ will be updated as information is available.

     

    Updated August 7, 2017