Funding shortage shutters The Legends Academy

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Insufficient operating funds have forced The Legends Academy to close its doors.

Superintendent Tommy Tucker said the Denton charter school completed its final school year this week after its school board unanimously voted May 15 to surrender the school charter to the Texas Education Agency’s commissioner of education effective Aug. 31.

“We just didn’t have a large enough enrollment to generate funds to operate,” he said. “I’m disappointed because we were looking at the students performing better each year, and we were growing, but we weren’t growing fast enough to offset the deficit.”

The school had 85 students — seven of which made up the school’s second graduating class — enrolled in grades seven through 12 this year, according to school officials.

State funding cuts during the last legislative session translated to a 6.5 percent cut to Legends for the 2011-12 year, Tucker said.

A deeper cut was expected for the 2012-13 year.

According to the school’s 2011-12 budget posted on its website, revenue was projected to total $905,760 — $272,300 more than the previous school year — but that figure was based on 133 students, rather than 85.

The charter school, which opened in fall 2009 with 45 students, is funded by local donations and state and federal revenue, but it does not collect property taxes as do public independent school districts, he said. The school didn’t have enough money to offset the projected shortfall for the 2012-13 year, Tucker said.

On Thursday, students, parents and teachers said goodbye to one another at a campus potluck.

“I think it’s about the saddest day ever,” said Mariah Pursley, a sophomore at the school. “The school has done so much for me. This school has brought me to the highest that I’ve ever been in my school career.”

Prior to enrolling at the academy more than a year ago, Pursley said she was depressed and viewed school as the last place she wanted to be. Being at the charter school changed that perception, she said. She said it’s the only school she’s attended where she wanted to go to class.

“This place is what made me care,” Pursley said. “At The Legends Academy, we’re like a big family. This school has literally saved my life.”

Shelia Figueiras, whose son attended Legends, said she was saddened by news that began to spread more than two weeks ago that the school would close.

“I was shocked,” she said. “They’re just getting a good student base going. We’re not too happy about it. We wish it was staying open.”

Chaz Finch, a junior at the school, said in the time he’s attended the academy, he’s found it be a sanctuary where he could escape the stresses found at larger schools. He said he looks to the future as “a new beginning.” Though the school is closing, students are “getting a new start somewhere else,” Finch said.

Texas Education Centers, which operates schools in Denton, Aubrey, Lewisville and Little Elm, has agreed to admit the displaced students, according to Legends school officials.

Principal Chris Bennett said most of the students have decided to attend the Education Center in Denton to stay with their classmates. The center is also accepting applications from teachers displaced by the campus closing, Bennett said.

Parents can obtain their child’s school records at Legends Academy through July. All records after July can be obtained through the Education Service Center Region XIII in Austin.

Tucker said school staff members will clean the campus and box up items throughout the summer, as well as take inventory of textbooks and equipment and finalize school records, which will be turned over to the Texas Education Agency.

In a May 15 letter, Tucker thanked students who embraced the school’s “approach to education and thrived academically,” and parents “who ferried their children to and from school and encouraged them to participate in all of the planned activities.”

He added this week that he also thanks the community for its support and the “cooperative spirit between Denton ISD and The Legends Academy.”

“I’ve just really enjoyed and appreciated the support from the community,” he said.

 

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is btabor@dentonrc.com.

 

RECORD REQUESTS

School records can be obtained in June and July via fax request at 940-387-6028 or by picking up records at the campus, 2012 W. University Drive. For more information, call 940-387-6021, ext. 253. After July, school records can be obtained through Education Service Center Region XIII in Austin by calling 512-919-5313.


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