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Charter renewed for Shining Rock Classical Academy

Charter renewed for Shining Rock Classical Academy

The North Carolina State Board of Education recently voted to renew the charter for Shining Rock Classical Academy for another seven years. 

The public charter school — which has a focus on experiential learning — opened in Waynesville in the fall of 2015 with a couple hundred students in kindergarten through sixth grade and now the school enrolls 309 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. 

“I am extremely proud of Shining Rock earning a seven-year renewal. It affirms that Haywood County has another public school choice that is providing our citizens with the education they expect for our children,” said Head of School Joshua Morgan.

SRCA’s board of directors had to undergo a two-year process for the charter renewal — a process where the state reviews all facets of SRCA’s performance and governance outcomes, including a comprehensive review of academic, financial, procedural, and community processes and outcomes. 

“This is a day for celebrating the hard work of our staff, school leader, families, and board members to create a great place to learn and thrive. While the renewal process has been challenging and allowed us to reflect on improvements, we have also been able to demonstrate our successes and student achievements,” said SRCA Board Chairwoman Michelle Haynes.

The Charter School Advisory Board is responsible for monitoring all charter schools in North Carolina and the renewal cycle represents an opportunity to hold charter schools accountable for all school operations, including academic achievement. Each charter school is granted an initial five-year charter. To remain in operation, a charter must be renewed, and the CSAB uses established criteria to determine if a school is eligible for a 10-, 7-, 5-, or 3-year renewal. Underperforming charter schools may be denied a renewal.

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“The closest comparison in terms of rigor and comprehensive review of our results that most people would be familiar with would be the AdvanceED certifications. Having served on a review team previously, these reviews are a snapshot of a school or system and how they are operating at that moment. The big differences are that the charter renewal process is an active two-year review of school activities,” Morgan said. “Public district schools in the state do not undergo such a renewal process and are allowed to continue to operate indefinitely even if they are considered continually low-performing. Charter schools in our state are regularly closed if they aren’t meeting the requirements. The rigorous renewal process for charter schools is an assurance to all stakeholders that we at SRCA represent a high-quality choice for the children of our community.”

A number of community concerns over the last couple of years called into question whether SRCA would receive a good review from the CSAB and a longer charter renewal from the state board of education. 

Based on a grading rubric from the state, a seven-year renewal requires no significant compliance issues for the past two years, financially sound audits for the last two years and academic outcomes comparable to local school district in two of the last three years. It appeared Shining Rock’s history of poor academic performance might prevent the school from receiving the seven-year renewal, but it didn’t. 

According to data released by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for the 2016-17 school year, Shining Rock finished dead last in nine of 17 major performance benchmarks compared to Haywood’s other public schools. 

Additionally, Shining Rock’s overall School Performance Grade (SPG) as reported by the DPI declined from 70 in its first year to 65 for the 2016-17 school year, placing it exactly in the middle of all 163 charter schools in North Carolina. By contrast, the lowest SPG of any school in Haywood County — other than Shining Rock — was a 67.

However, SRCA’s testing scores made a comeback in 2019 just in time for its charter renewal when its School Performance Grade report showed a final score of 67 — a full 11 points over 2018’s year’s score of 56. 

SRCA was one of seven charter schools to be renewed for seven years while five were approved for 10 years. Only one charter school — Ignite Innovation Academy in Greenville — received a non-renewal. The school opened in 2016 and was graded an F school for three years, didn’t meet growth expectations and dropped in enrollment. 

With its charter renewed, SRCA continues to focus on improving academic measures, establishing a permanent facility and growing the school to include all high-school grades. 

SRCA is holding open enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year through April 3. For more information, visit

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