Two years after the North Carolina State Legislature passed the 1996 Charter School legislation allowing for the creation and establishment of independent public schools, Wake County teachers Marybeth Childers and George Coccarelli filed an application for what would become Magellan Charter School. Believing that children in grades four through eight would benefit from a small, personal, and hands-on environment, they acted to create a school that could provide continuity during this time of rapid growth and development. This, they asserted, would help students maintain their focus on academics – the first priority for Magellan.
In March of 1997, the North Carolina State Board of Education approved Magellan’s charter. For the next six months the Magellan Board of Directors and a multitude of dedicated parents worked diligently to open the school. On August 25, 1997, Magellan became a reality and opened its doors to 294 new students.
Eventually, the charter was expanded to include third grade. And today, Magellan is home to a few more than 400 students served by a team of approximately 30 teachers.
A Brief History of Charter Schools.
Today approximately 500,000 students in over 2000 schools across the country are educated in charter schools. In North Carolina there were 99 charter schools in operation as of the 2001-2002 school year. North Carolina legislation law allows 100 schools to be chartered. More than 16,000 students are currently enrolled in charter schools across North Carolina. Just like all public schools, charter schools may not charge tuition. In addition, they are open to all North Carolina students. Charter schools are founded by individuals or groups with a common educational vision. Each school has a specific mission and many are designed to serve a certain target population. Therefore, it is important for parents to be familiar with the programs and goals of a school to determine its suitability for their child. While the small class sizes offered by charter schools are enticing, small classes cannot substitute for an appropriate program for any child. Charter schools are highly accountable for producing results.
By definition, charter schools lose their funding and cease to exist if they do not deliver the educational action promised in their initial proposal. Most are measured by the state’s ABC’s Accountability Model used to assess all public schools. A school’s performance on these measures can be useful information as parents examine their choices. Charter schools add a new level of choice to the public school system. They also allow teachers, parents, and students the opportunity to have a great deal of involvement and influence in our public schools. However, the reality of bringing vision into action can test the patience and perseverance of even the most dedicated individuals. Consequently, charter school families cannot be reminded too often that the rewards that come with being educational pioneers can take several years to come to fruition. Charter schools are not for the impatient, inflexible or faint-hearted. Those who are willing to embark on this educational journey–roll up their sleeves to help make it work–are rewarded with a wonderful new form of public education that will serve this and future generations of North Carolina students very well.