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    Pinnacle Classical Academy moving forward

    The Shelby Star
    Rebecca Clark

    Rebecca Hood is frustrated with traditional public schools.

    The parent of a second grade student, she wants another option for her daughter.

    Hood was one of around 40 parents who attended Pinnacle Classical Academy's town hall meeting Saturday.

    "I have a child who is a non-traditional thinker," Hood said. "The school system wants to put her in a box and teach her along with 20 other students in a box and it's not working."

    She hopes a proposed charter school, Cleveland County's first, will offer her child new educational opportunities.

    "She'll be allowed to think outside that box," Hood said.

    The parents and grandparents who gathered in Elizabeth Baptist Church's coffee shop came with questions about transportation, school lunches, curriculum and meeting the needs of all students.

    Former state Sen. Debbie Clary, the board's chairwoman, said the series of town hall meetings are intended to educate the general public on what a charter school is what the school will offer when it opens next fall.

    She said the school has received the preliminary charter and is expected to receive the final approval in March, five months before opening.

    At each town hall meeting, parents interested in enrolling a student can fill out of a letter of intent with contact information, student's name, grade and current school.

    Clary said the board has already received around 250 of the letters expressing interest.

    Some parents want a less traditional, more hands on style of learning.

    Others are looking for more challenging curriculum.

    Mary Hoke said she has a son who is about to start kindergarten.

    "I'm a certified teacher and I love the charter school system," Hoke said.

    She said she likes the emphasis on community involvement and is excited to see how the charter school will challenge her son.

    According to the school's mission statement, Pinnacle would work to provide students with a college preparatory education built on the Core Knowledge Sequence and an emphasis on STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math).

    "It's something new and it sounds like something very unique and different in the county," said Toni Mode.

    Mode, whose child won't start school until 2014, said she feels like Cleveland County kids will benefit from a charter school.
    The six board members include a parent, business owners and current state Sen. Wes Westmoreland.

    Clary said the board will contact parents once the charter is approved and tell them how to apply.

    As for where the school will be located, that announcement is expected to be made in the next month or so.

    Clary said the board is working out the financing to build a facility and county commissioners have worked with Pinnacle to choose a location.

    She said it will be centrally located and for the first year, students will most likely learn in modular classrooms.

    Funds will come from a combination of sources - including donations and loans.

    Joel Mikell said he and his wife attended the town hall meeting to gather information.

    He said they are grandparents and were filling in for their children who weren't able to make it to the meeting.

    "We came to take notes and ask questions," Mikell said. "We've always been involved in our children and grandchildren from an academic standpoint and we're very interested in this opportunity."

    He said education is very important to them.

    Clary called Pinnacle Classical Academy a "community school" and said parents are expected to be involved and engaged.

    "We as a community are building a school," she said. "This is your school folks."

    Clary said the school is more than just another educational opportunity but also an economic development tool.

    She said having options is another way to attracts professionals, such as physicians, into the county.

    It also means jobs.

    The board said the school will employ around 20 people to start with and build up to approximately 70.


    About Pinnacle Classical Academy

    It is a tuition free public charter school.

    The projected opening is August 2013.

    The school will offer grades kindergarten through six and will add a grade level each year.

    There will be 305 students enrolled the first year and a lottery will be held for each grade if there are more student applications than open slots.

    PCA will implement the Core Knowledge Sequence in grades K-8 and emphasize STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

    There will not be a lunchroom but the school will provide a catered box lunch and establish a fund for the children who can't afford the meal.

    Two buses will provide transportation to the school with pick up points to be established around the county.

    The need for an after school program is still being determined.

    There will be two teachers for children with special needs and the school will contract with speech and occupational therapists.

    Pinnacle plans to add the International Baccalaureate program for middle and high school students. The program provides a nationally recognized standard that helps students stand out when applying to colleges.

    "Pinnacle Classical Academy moving forward" was originally published on Saturday, September 29, 2012 by The Shelby Star. Reach reporter Rebecca Clark at 704-669-3344.