Charter Schools Review Board denies application for an all-boys charter in Mecklenburg County

Published December 14, 2023

By Greg Childress

The Charter Schools Review Board has denied the application of an all-male charter school that had plans to open in Mecklenburg County. Myrtis Simpson Walker Academy for Boys hoped to open in 2025 with 300 students in grades K-5. The school would have grown to a K-8 school with 500 students by 2030.

Review board members expressed concern about the single-gender school meeting enrollment projections. State funding is tied to enrollment. Schools that don’t meet enrollment projections struggle financially.

Last week, the State Board of Education ordered the School of the Arts for Boys Academy (SABA) in Chatham County to close because it didn’t have enough students to remain financially viable. The state requires charter schools to enroll a minimum of 80 students. SABA enrolled fewer than 50 students.

Cynthia Johnson, a school counselor who co-chairs the Myrtis Simpson Walker board of directors, said more than 300 families expressed interest in enrolling children in the school. Johnson assured the review board that the school would hit its enrollment projection.

a headshot of Bruce Friend
Bruce Friend (File photo)



Review board Chairman Bruce Friend said SABA also believed that its enrollment projections were solid.

“They too were telling us all the time that the numbers were there, the numbers were there, or the numbers would be coming,” Friend said.

Review board member Dave Machado said enrollment projections for Myrtis Simpson Walker are “very aggressive” for a single-gender school in the competitive Charlotte market.

“That’s a big lift,” said Machado, the former director of the state’s Office of Charter Schools.

George Hunt, a Myrtis Simpson Walker board co-chair, told NC Newsline that he was disappointed with the review board’s decision. Hunt said it’s unfair to compare the Mecklenburg County market to the Chatham County market where SABA is located.

“I don’t think that was the only reason for the decision but the school in Chatham not being successful was a big part of the decision,” Hunt said. “I think we would be more successful [attracting students] because if you do any research, you would know that Charlotte has been growing for the last 10 to 12 years.”

Hunt said school leaders have not decided whether to appeal the review board’s decision to the state board.

The review board was created under Republican-sponsored House Bill 618, which handed many of the charter school oversight responsibilities formerly held by the state board to the review board. It has the power to approve, renew, amend and terminate charters. The state board has the final say only on appeals.

Liberty Charter Academy in Guilford County and Carolina Achieve in Orange County moved forward in the charter approval process.