After years of being rebuffed in attempts to grow Academics Plus Charter School above its original 650-student cap, the school last week won approval to add an extra 200 students over a two-year period.
A committee given the authority to make that decision on charter schools gave the green light after compelling testimony from executive director Rob McGill.
McGill, a longtime educator, former principal of Pine Forest Elementary School and superintendent for the large Pulaski County Special School District has corralled a rebellious teacher core, brought in experienced principals and gotten a handle on discipline in his schools that seems to escape many administrators.
The school has overcome a tumultuous beginning and difficult period to become more of what it set out to be initially - a school of distinction. Rather than poor test scores, under McGill’s leadership the school has been criticized the last few years for its small lack of minority students.
McGill offered the state a plan to attract more minority students if the cap were increased by planning bus routes in Marche, Morgan, Oak Grove and Palarm.
McGill is excited about the new opportunities the new students will provide. "We are very excited to be able to serve the additional 200 students over the next two years at Academics Plus. We are happy we can offer Academics Plus as a choice to more students. We will most likely continue to have a waiting list, but we will be able to provide an excellent education to more students in the Maumelle and Central Arkansas area.
I am proud of the work teachers, support staff, parents and students put into making this cap increase a reality. Our students are achieving higher and higher and that does not come easily. As the oldest charter school in Arkansas we are proud of the positive things we have accomplished over the past 13 years, and we want to continue to improve our program for students."
McGill said he appreciated Sen. David Sanders and Rep. Mark Lowery for speaking to the Authorizing Panel in support of APCS. He also thanked Mayor Mike Watson, Aldermen Burch Johnson and Preston Lewis for taking time to attend the hearing.
He also thanked the entire City Council and the Pulaski County Quorum Court for unanimously approving a resolution and signing a letter in support of the cap increase. He said the community support is very strong and was recognized by the Authorizing Panel.
The school will hold the lottery on March 3 at 4 p.m. at the elementary school.
McGill noted the State Board of Education could change the committee’s decision however it would be a remote possibility.
Both PCSSD superintendent Jerry Guess and their attorney spoke against the cap increase.