RALEIGH — An organization that helped set up charter schools in North Carolina and Arizona has lost several of its leaders and cut back on its work, leading two N.C. schools to drop the organization’s services.
TeamCFA’s schools — which represent about 11,000 students — are wondering what to do next.
Cornerstone Charter Academy in Greensboro is one of those schools, according to the websites of Cornerstone and TeamCFA.
The turnover at TeamCFA has created uncertainty around the Charlotte-based nonprofit that provides financial, instructional and management support to 17 charter schools in North Carolina and four schools in Arizona.
“I want to clear up one misconception,” C. Bradley Miller, a member of TeamCFA’s board of directors, said in an email Friday to The News & Observer. “TeamCFA Foundation is not closing. We remain committed to supporting schools and their students and helping them achieve academic excellence.”
Miller said staff members still work at TeamCFA, but he didn’t provide any details. No one answered the phone at TeamCFA’s headquarters on a recent weekday and a voicemail from The News & Observer wasn’t returned.
The staff directory, email and telephone contact information on TeamCFA’s website was gone Monday afternoon.
Staff members who left and were contacted by The News & Observer would not say why they left.
Amid the uncertainty, two new schools that opened in August — Bonnie Cone Classical Academy in Huntersville and Community Public Charter School in Stanley — no longer plan to have TeamCFA run their day-to-day operations.
Bonnie Cone is in the process of dropping TeamCFA as its management company. Community Public Charter’s board signed an agreement last week ending its management contract with TeamCFA because the company said it could no longer fulfill the duties, according to Eddie McGinnis, a member of the board of the new Gaston County charter school.
“We didn’t panic when we got information that they’d go a different route,” McGinnis said. “We feel confident that we can make this work.”
TeamCFA also has worked with Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Robeson County, which was taken over by the state due to its low performance. TeamCFA is the “curriculum partner” of Achievement For All Children, the company hired to manage Southside as part of the Innovative School District program.
Former state legislator Tricia Cotham, president of Achievement For All Children, did not answer questions from The News & Observer about whether TeamCFA is still working with Southside Ashpole.
Cotham said that she’s not affiliated with TeamCFA. A spokesman for the Innovative School District said Wednesday that Achievement For All Children is an “affiliate organization of TeamCFA.”
TeamCFA founded by John Bryan
TeamCFA was launched by retired Oregon businessman John Bryan, who has used his wealth to promote school-choice causes and to give generously to Republican political candidates and GOP-run political action committees. He helped pass the law creating the Innovative School District, which allows low-performing schools to be turned over to outside groups, such as charter school operators.
TeamCFA helps schools with start-up costs and provides instructional support and money for technology, The News & Observer previously reported. TeamCFA schools must be trained in a curriculum called Core Knowledge. Some TeamCFA schools have a classical education theme, but it is not required.
Schools in the TeamCFA network include Carolina Charter Academy and Pine Springs Preparatory Academy in Wake County; Excelsior Classical Academy in Durham; and Aristotle Preparatory Academy, Unity Classical Charter School and Veritas Community School in Charlotte.
Kristen Stocking, founder of Pine Springs Prep Academy in Holly Springs, said that the school is in good shape to continue operating.
“I hope our sister schools will do well,” Stocking added, in an interview last week. “If they have a strong parent base and are doing good things, they’ll pull through.”
The future of the organization changed after September 2017 when Bryan and the Challenge Foundation, which Bryan also had formed, discontinued funding for TeamCFA. According to an audit of TeamCFA, the group received as much as 95% of its annual revenue from Bryan and the foundation.
TeamCFA got some outside donors to help offset the funding loss. The organization also sought to cut costs and suspended giving up to $300,000 in forgivable loans to schools, according to the audit.