FIRST ON 3: Baker Mitchell’s Douglass Academy in violation of state charter school law; Could lose charter


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — We have uncovered a letter from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction that states Downtown Wilmington charter school Douglass Academy is currently under Governance Cautionary Status with the state and could face losing its charter.

The problem is attendance. The school told the state it would have 228 students for its inaugural year this year. The state mandatory minimum is 65. Douglass currently has 35 students according to a recent visit by the Office of Charter Schools and School Financial Reporting.

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Baker Mitchell, the CEO of Roger Bacon Academy, oversees the school. During an open house at Douglass Friday Mitchell said he was not worried about being placed on Governance Cautionary Status and was certain he would be able to work things out with the state.

Mitchell is also under an ongoing federal investigation by the US Department of Education.

In the letter to Barbra Jones, the headmaster at Douglass Academy, State Director Joel Medley reminds Jones that she has neither requested nor received a waiver for not having enough students which puts the school in violation of state law (G.S. 115C-238.29B(b)(12). We called Medley late this afternoon, was told he was in a meeting and left a message.

The state also mandated Jones to fulfill a list of requirements by February 21, which included a letter explaining why she failed to meet the projected enrollment target of 228 students, why marketing efforts were unsuccessful, and if the school plans to give back its charter at the end of the year for violating state laws.

The letter also alerts Jones that the state is holding back $240,000 from the school because it only got 15% of its anticipated enrollment. It also put Douglass on a 30 day Cautionary Status to fix the attendance problem. If it can’t, it could be put on Probationary Status, according to the state, and be subject to, “more stringent disciplinary action up to and including revocation of the charter.”

The state also wants to know if low enrollments at Douglass will in any way affect the potential plans for a new charter school Mitchell wants to build in southern Brunswick County.

According to a source with the Brunswick County School District, Jones and Mitchell will meet with the Charter School Advisory Board in Raleigh Monday at 1 p.m. to discuss the attendance issues.