Feedback wanted on proposed charter school for Natchez

Published 12:11 am Tuesday, May 20, 2014

NATCHEZ The state’s charter school authorizer board is seeking public comments Thursday on a proposed charter school in Natchez.

The public hearing will include a summary presentation on the school by members of the group applying to create the school.

The hearing is one of three slated throughout this week in Mississippi communities where charter schools could eventually be opened.

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In Natchez, the Phoenix Project Community Development Foundation wants to open the Phoenix Early College Charter School, serving grades 9 through 12.

The public hearing will be at 5:30 p.m. in the Nelson Multi-Purpose Room of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, located at 11 Co-Lin Circle.

Phoenix Project Community Development Foundation Inc. was created in part by Natchez native Iretha Beyah, who has advocated for charter schools in the area before, including in Fayette, Waterproof and Ferriday.

Charter schools are publicly funded, independently operated public schools that do not charge tuition or fees, are open to all students who wish to attend and cannot discriminate when making enrollment decisions.

Beyah said she hopes those who attend the public hearing this week come seeking to learn more about what the group hopes to create in the area.

“I’m hoping to get people who are concerned and want to know more about the actual school we’re proposing,” Beyah said. “I want them to realize that we’re not trying to take anything away from the (public school) district, but that we simply want to offer another option.”

The group is seeking to open an early college high school model, which is similar to a high school focused on college preparation, that would have open enrollment for students in ninth through 12th grades, with a plan of opening to 75, ninth grade students in 2015.

The school would add a grade level each year until reaching 12th grade in 2019 with a total of 300 students in the school.

The charter school would likely be located on the campus of Alcorn State University, according to Beyah and the group’s 192-page application, which is available online.

Click here to view the full, 192-page application for the Phoenix Early College Charter School

The school’s curriculum would revolve around project-based learning and character and leadership development, among other instructional methods.

Enrollment into Phoenix Early College Charter School would be by open lottery.

If the number of applications exceeds the number of seats allotted, applications would be drawn to fill the seats.

The remaining applications would be drawn and placed on the school’s waiting list for seats that may become available.

The Charter School Authorizer Board plans to vote on applications June 2, finalizing contracts with approved schools later that month.

The applications are available online at

Board Chairman Tommie Cardin said he will moderate the hearing Thursday to ensure comments are focused on the specific school planned for the Natchez area.

“We’re very interested in what the public has to say about that particular application and the school itself,” Cardin said. “What we’re not interested in is a debate about the concept of charter schools in the state.

“The legislature has passed that law.”

Cardin said he would allow residents up to 5 minutes each to speak, but less if there are many commenters.

“We want to get as much input as possible,” Cardin said. “Anyone who doesn’t get to speak is encouraged to submit written comments.”

Written comments can be emailed to the board at or mailed to the board at 3825 Ridgewood Road, Jackson MS 39211.