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CCAT's charter renewed by Georgia State Board of Education
CCAT photo
Students at Statesboro's Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology study in a science class earlier this wek. taught by Juli Sergi. CCAT, which opened in 2002, recently had its charter as a public school renewed by the state for five years. - photo by NAOMI BRYANT/Herald Intern
The Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology (CCAT) has no desks, no cafeteria, and walls that don’t reach the ceiling. But the Statesboro public school’s atypical facility hasn’t kept it from achieving its goals.
    This spring, the Georgia State Board of Education renewed CCAT’s charter, ensuring that the school will remain open for at least another five years. Since CCAT is a special state charter school, it is directly responsible to the State Board and depends on the board’s approval for its continued existence. The charter review process was strenuous: CCAT’s standardized test scores, attendance, and fiscal responsibility were under stringent examination.
    “They wanted to see that we have a plan to teach students that is effective,” said Dr. Kathy Harwood, CCAT’s director.
    So far, CCAT’s methods have proven successful, Harwood said. The high school’s test scores and graduation rate, both of which beat state averages, impressed Board members. All of CCAT’s juniors passed the English and math portions of the Georgia High School Graduation Test, while 94 percent passed the Science and Social Studies sections. All but two of this year’s seniors will attend college, raising the proportion of graduates who attend college to about 85 percent.
    Junior Catherine Moore credits her school’s emphasis on education for its students’ academic success.
    “I think we scored so well because we don’t stress out about the tests. It’s more about learning,” said Moore.
    Joanne Steffen, a CCAT teacher who spent nearly a year helping Harwood rewrite the school's charter, says the school suffers from public misperception.
    “People don’t perceive us as a public school,” said Steffen, “They think we charge tuition, only accept special-ed students, or pull out only the brightest kids. In reality, we just have students who for whatever reason aren’t exceeding to their capacity, and we give them a way to show success. We aren’t in competition with Bulloch County schools. We’re an alternative.”
    Better funding would help CCAT make changes that would benefit its students, including a move to a better facility, Harwood said. But whether or not the school’s budget increases, Harwood hopes to make subtle changes to the school’s curriculum, emphasizing community service goals, technology and the arts.
    One thing that won’t change is the school’s small size. Beginning next fall, CCAT will completely phase out its elementary school in order to focus solely on middle and high school. It plans to admit only 150-175 students.
    “At CCAT, we have the ABCs of education: the ability to change, a belief in kids, and caring adults in students’ lives,” said Harwood, “This can only be accomplished in a small space.”
    CCAT’s small size and unique environment is important to students, many of whom are relieved that they won’t be forced to transfer.
    “I’m really glad the charter got renewed because I didn’t want to go (anywhere else,” said sophomore Dylan Cantrell.
    CCAT will host an Open House on May 29th from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Visitors will have an opportunity to observe CCAT classes in session. At 3:15 p.m., following the Open House, there will be a question and answer session with administrators, teachers, and students.
    “The Open House is a chance for students and parents to come during school hours and see what’s happening,” said Harwood, “We believe in choice in education, and we’re hoping to give people a chance to make this choice.”
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