Charter defies district-ordered shutdown, files appeal

SUMTER, SC (WIS) - Another appeal keeps the doors of a Lee County charter school open after the state moved to shut it down last year.

The state's charter school district gave the Mary Dinkins Charter School the order to shut down last March, but the school appealed and has stayed open ever since.

The state alleges academic misconduct and financial discrepancies there.

Despite the orders to close, students are still in class.

Before the school year started, the school moved 30 miles away to Sumter and opened up shop inside a church.

The state says the school is failing the 150 students there.

Principal Benita Robinson says the school isn't going anywhere.

Robinson was back in school Tuesday just minutes after filing an appeal to keep her charter school open.

The state's charter school district turned records over to state investigators last year, asking SLED to investigate the school's spending and to investigate six years of academic records.

The state says the school's test scores are disastrous. In 2009, 56 percent passed state testing. Within two years, only 16 percent passed. Fifty-four year-end tests required by law were never given, and since 2006, the school's met only one of the 22 standards for the No Child Left Behind Act.

Robinson says the allegations are not valid.

"We have made significant gains," said Robinson.

Robinson says the state is trying to close the school to save money. She says the SLED investigation and the state's decision to pull her charter is political.

State Charter School Superintendent Dr. Wayne Brazell says the school's administrators are using the courts to delay the inevitable. He says the district's already stopped sending tax dollars to the school and says the school is not fit to teach children.

"We do not feel like our board -- the charter school district -- we do not feel like that this is an appropriate educational setting for children," said Brazell.

For example, students across South Carolina were taking state-mandated writing tests. Students at the Dinkins school were not.

"This morning, they did an assessment similar to what would have occurred if they were given a state assessment test," said Robinson.

Another concern for the people who want to shut this school down: the longer the delays, the further behind the students are getting.

The state's appeals court will decide whether the school keeps it charter or to uphold the state's decision to close it. There is no date set for the court to decide the appeal.

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