Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Public input to be sought, but budget already adopted for Cirrus Academy

Laura Corley | The Macon Newsroom
Cirrus Academy governing board members Latrell Taylor, left, and Shirlynn Kelly attended the Aug. 8, 2023, meeting in the school’s “cafenasium,” a space that doubles as a gym and cafeteria. The other half of the four-member board attended via Zoom.

The first public hearing on the 2024 budget for Cirrus Academy was slated for Tuesday but was canceled late Monday, more than a month after the board voted to adopt it at an unadvertised meeting.

The state charter school’s $8.9 million budget was approved by its governing board at a called meeting June 30, Cirrus board Executive Director Gregg Stevens said. That meeting occurred with no notice to the public, parents, news reporters or school employees.

Georgia law requires governing authorities to provide public notice of the proposed budget in the county’s legal organ and advertise a public hearing at least one week before adoption. The school did not advertise the availability of the proposed budget or the June 30 meeting at which it was adopted.

The hearing slated for Tuesday was to be the first opportunity for public input on the budget. Georgia law requires a public hearing on the budget before it is adopted.

Stevens said the budget hearing was canceled at the request of the board, which “would like more information from the (State Charter Schools Commission) regarding the status or outcome of the complaints the SCSC received prior to its next meeting.”

It is unclear when the board might receive a status update on the three recent complaints submitted about Cirrus to the State Charter Schools Commission. The complaints, submitted by a school employee and a paid Cirrus consultant, alleged the board violated the Open Meetings Act and has failed to approve basic nuts-and-bolts business items such as the budget, school year calendar and organizational chart.

Stevens, contracted by the board in July, is the former deputy director of the State Charter Schools Commission that oversees Cirrus. Stevens submitted advertisements for the Tuesday hearing on behalf of the board.

Notes from the June 30 meeting during which the budget was approved indicated there had been two “budget review meetings” in May. Stevens said those two meetings “may not have met all hearing requirements.”

The two public hearings in May were advertised in The Telegraph but notes from those hearings show not enough governing board members were present for there to be a quorum.

“The board members were notified in a timely manner, they just decided not to show up,” Wendy Brinson-Grimes, director of operations and nutrition for Cirrus, said.

Stevens said the future public hearing, which has yet to be rescheduled, will “help ensure that any amendments to the budget fully comply with all hearing provisions prior to adoption.”

Cirrus Academy is the first state charter school to open in Macon. The school faces the possibility of state closure in its final year of operating under a two-year probationary charter contract with the State Charter Schools Commission. The school has struggled with financial and operational compliance since it opened in 2016. Earlier this year, Cirrus met the state commission’s academic standards for the first time in its history.

Cirrus plans to submit a request for a five-year charter contract renewal with the State Charter Schools Commission in the next month.

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-744-4334 or email [email protected].

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