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Mitchell resigns from state charter school advisory board

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By Sam Hickman

Baker Mitchell, founder of Roger Bacon Academy, which operates two charter schools in Brunswick County, has resigned from the North Carolina Charter School Advisory Board.

Mitchell and Paul Norcross, who also resigned Wednesday, July 30, were the subjects of an ethics complaint filed by Public Charter Schools Association President Eddie Goodall. Goodall said Mitchell and Norcross shouldn’t have a vote on the advisory board because their decisions could be influenced by their own business interests.

The North Carolina Public Charter School Advisory Board recommends policies for adoption by the State Board of Education regarding all aspects of charter school operation, including timelines, standards, criteria for acceptance and approval of applications. The council also monitors charter schools and grounds for revocation of charters. The council will undertake any of the duties and responsibilities directed by the State Board of Education.

In his resignation letter, which was provided to the Beacon by state Department of Public Instruction spokeswoman Lynda Fuller, Mitchell wrote, “After reviewing the commitments that I have on several other organizations, I also recognize that with the many challenges in the upcoming months, you should feel free to determine whether the Advisory Board can continue to be well served by having another Senate appointee on this important Board who can devote more time…it is time that I retire and allow the Senate to select a new member.”

In a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, Mitchell wrote the charter schools with which he has been affiliated for the last 14 years have “compiled outstanding records, both academically and financially…and my first priority must be to ensure that they continue their progress towards improving education for their nearly 2,000 students.”

He said the work of the advisory board and its dedicated members have enhanced the quality of Tar Heel state charter schools and “broadened the freedoms of parental choice throughout the state.”

Mitchell said his primary concern is ensuring that “we all keep our focus moving from rule-based to performance-based accountability.” He says if that’s the case, “the children of North Carolina will inevitably be best served.”

Roger Bacon Academy operates Charter Day School in Leland and the recently opened South Brunswick Charter School in Southport.

Mitchell served on the Charter Schools Advisory Board for the last four years.

Norcross said in his resignation letter he has been the victim of unnecessary attacks.

“For those of us that have been willing to step out on a limb and do the right thing, make the sacrifices and fight the fight, we are targeted and vilified to diminish us and the cause that we are fighting for, facts be damned,” he wrote. “Ultimately there comes a point in which it is no longer worth it when your energy is focused on fending off attacks and abuse rather than accomplishing the mission at hand.”

Norcross wrote he and his family have made a positive impact on education in North Carolina by providing books to libraries, literacy programs, innovative educational programs, therapeutic programs and scholarships with local, regional and global reach, but recently, he “is being used by nefarious sorts that wish to achieve personal gain or notoriety, and are focused on derailing the progress we have worked so hard to accomplish over the past several years with educational choice.”

 

Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or shickman@brunswickbeacon.com.