By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
A letter of intent filed by The Nola House Charter School, has been approved by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools. While the exact location of the proposed public charter school is yet to be decided, it will likely be in the Edgecombe County portion of Rocky Mount Rocky, said a school spokesperson.
The school’s next step is submitting a full application in December to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, with a proposed start date of fall 2015.
If the charter is approved, the school would become the second start-up charter school in Edgecombe County in a three-year period. North East Carolina Prep School (NECP) opened in Tarboro in August 2012.
The Nola House Charter School’s proposed mission is “providing access to success for students to be the Next generation of Outstanding Leaders and Achievers.” “NOLA” stands for the late Nola Willette Powell, after whom the school will be named.
“She always had a philosophy of trying to help others,” said Dr. Charles Everett Robinson, chair of the proposed school’s board of directors and assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Mount Olive College.
Elton Powell, the school’s visionary, is the brother of the late Nola Willette and a 26-year educator. He has worked for the Wilson County and Nash-Rocky Mount school systems, as well as Edgecombe Early College High School.
“As I look at how life has progressed in Nash and in Wilson County, I just feel like there’s more that can be done for people in Edgecombe County. My heart just goes out to the people because of a lot of the disparity,” Powell said. “All we want to do is just do our part. Education is something that I always believed in.”
Literacy will be a major focus of the school, Powell said. To him, improving the literacy rate will have a direct correlation with the quality of life of people in Edgecombe County.
“The literacy rate in Edgecombe County is 35 percent, and that shouldn’t be in the 21st century,” Powell said. “Without a stronger percentage of literacy, the economic downfall will remain. The poverty will remain … I feel like people need to be empowered and encouraged to know that they can break free. It’s time to restore some hope, and I think we are fortunate to have made application for a letter of intent.”
Robinson also discussed the focus on literacy.
“We believe if a child can read and be able to comprehend what they read, that will be the foundation for other courses, as well,” he said.
Ultimately, Robinson said, the goal of the school is to provide families a “choice for high quality public education,” with a student body that reflects the diversity of the community.
“We’ll have academically gifted students, we’ll have special education students, we’ll have English as a Second Language students. We want that diversity,” Robinson said.
The school’s proposition is to have 220 students in kindergarten through the second grade in its first year, adding a grade level each year.
If The Nola House Charter School’s charter is approved, the school will join two other charter schools in the Edgecombe-Rocky Mount Area: NECP, with a student population of about 900, and Rocky Mount Prep School, with a student population of about 1,200.
“I anticipate that new charter operators have an understanding of the economics of the ventures they are entering into and will look at numbers and financial forecasts very carefully,” said Eddie Goodall, executive director of the North Carolina Public Charter Schools Association. “A second layer of analysis would be the charter school advisory board's review of the application and the probability of success.”
An advisory council will review The Nola House Charter School’s application in February and March 2014. The proposed school’s hope is to have state board preliminary approval in June 2014.