Editorials

Confusion on charter school getting tiresome for the public

Once again, confusion reigns between the Riverview Charter School in Beaufort and the Beaufort County School District.

This time, it's about the school district's role in governing the charter school's lottery for enrollment. Charter school director Alison Thomas planned to conduct the school's lottery a day before the school board was to review the procedure. The school board said that review, and its approval of the lottery schematics, was necessary before the lottery could be conducted. The charter school acted as if the school district it belongs to did not exist, before wisely deciding to hold off on the lottery.

In another case, the school district was blindsided recently when Riverview leaders discussed with the Beaufort City Council the charter school possibly taking over the Beaufort Elementary School building. It was news to the Beaufort Elementary principal, staff, parents, and the school board. Once again, the charter school, this time with the city, acted as if the school district did not exist.

Prior to that, the charter school disputed enrollment numbers the school district set for Riverview. The charter school, acting as if the school district that funds it does not exist, planned to enroll many more students than the school board believes it approved.

This is tiresome behavior.

It is not fair to students, parents, school administrators or taxpayers. It can create false hopes, delays, misinformation, inefficiencies, suspicions and hard feelings. It can be a waste of time and money.

The community deserves a clear deliniation of where the elected school board's authority begins and ends with the charter school.

This is not difficult. In most cases, clarity already exists. For example, numbers, such as enrollment caps, are black and white. They should be clear as a school bell. The school board set the numbers. The charter school must abide by them.

Riverview is part of the county school system, though it has its own board and is supposed to have enough independence to avoid red tape and try new tactics.

If the school district is overstepping its bounds by adding red tape, it must stop.

If the charter school is intentionally ignoring the school board, it must stop.

One promising development is a statement by Riverview board chairman Robert White.

About delaying the lottery until the school board authorizes it, White said, "We feel it is important that we try to have a good working relationship with the school board, and when it was clear they were uncomfortable with moving forward, then we became uncomfortable with moving forward."

That kind of common sense and statesmanship must become the norm in this relationship.

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