Learning More About Us & What the New School Year Will Look Like

School starts in less than a month and we appreciate Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce visiting our school, learning more about us, and making this video.

The 2020-21 school year is definitely going to look different for our students but The Learning Center has solid plans in place to offer our families two options for how students can be enrolled, attend school, and receive the awesome E-STEAM, Project Based Learning (PBL), Open Way Learning (OWL) education you expect and rely on.

Visit our website’s FAQ of our Covid-19 2020-21 School Year page to find the latest, up-to-date information about how school will look this fall at The Learning Center Charter School.

Perfect Attendance Recognized & School Meets Expected Growth

Under the direction of Ryan Bender, Head of School in Training, students at The Learning Center Charter School were recognized for perfect attendance for the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year.

“It’s important to honor students that have perfect attendance,” said Bender.  “So much happens each and every day at school and missing days or even hours can be disruptive to a student’s learning.”  Bender added that attendance is important because students are more likely to succeed in academics when they attend school consistently.

Also, the school as a whole was recently awarded the Academic Growth Award Certificate from North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for achieving expected academic progress during the 2018-2019 school year.

Academic growth is an indication of the progress that students in the school make over the course of a school year.

“Our philosophy of education is built upon the idea that young learners need to be exposed to a broad array of rich learning experiences,” said Bender. “Our teachers and students work hard every single day and we celebrate that success.”

More About Charter Schools Across the State

Image from National Charter School Resource Center. Visit https://charterschoolcenter.ed.gov/what-is-a-charter-school to learn more.


Charter schools are public schools of choice that are authorized by the State Board of Education and operated by independent non-profit boards of directors. State and local tax dollars are the primary funding sources for charter schools, which have open enrollment and cannot discriminate in admissions, associate with any religion or religious group, or charge-tuition. Charter schools operate with freedom from many of the regulations that govern district schools, but charter schools are held accountable through the State assessment and accountability system.

Other interesting facts as of January 2019:

  1. 109,389 students are being served by 185 charter schools across North Carolina.
  2. That represents 7.3% of the total public school population.
  3. 50% are female and 50% are male.
  4. 35 applicants to open a charter school are currently being reviewed by Charter School Advisory Board.
  5. The number of charter school exceeding growth increased from 36 to 46 last year.

Visit the Office of Charter Schools to learn more about charter schools across North Carolina.

What is a Charter School?

What Are Public Charter Schools?

Charter Schools are nontraditional public schools. One of the key differences between charter schools and traditional schools, or district schools, is the way they are governed. District schools are governed by a school district board while Charter Schools are governed by a board specifically for that school. As a result, these schools have more flexibility in their curriculum. This explains why you hear of some Charter Schools with a focus on the arts, science, technology, a certain culture, or a certain educational methodology (i.e. Classical, Montessori, Flipped Classroom). However, because Charter Schools receive public funds, they are still required to meet state testing requirements.

How Are Public Charter Schools Funded?

Charter Schools receive a per pupil allotment from the state, and they receive local funding from each student’s base school district.

Charter schools are eligible to receive funding for children with disabilities and limited English proficiency based on the actual population of such students in their school. Charter schools receive federal funds according to the same formulas as school districts. Unlike district schools, they receive no funding for facilities, buses, or food.

Report Shows Favorable Results for NC’s Charter Schools

The annual report on public charter schools published by the NC Department of Public Instruction found that charter school students outperformed their district school peers in several areas.*

  • More than 70% of charter schools met or exceeded expected growth.
  • A higher percentage of charter schools earned a School Performance Grade of an A or B.
  • A higher percentage of charter school students scored a level three or above on the statewide assessments.

*NC Department of Public Instruction, Report to the General Assembly Charter Schools Annual Report, February 2018.

Academic Growth Award


The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has awarded The Learning Center Charter School their Academic Growth Award for 2016-2017.  This is it’s first year presenting awards for achieving and exceeding expected academic growth.

Academic growth refers to academic progress made over a period of time.

Academic growth represents an impressive amount of hard work by students and educators and our school is proud of this recognition!

What exactly is a charter school anyway?

(This post originally appeared on August 30, 2010.  However, it bears repeating now and again.  Be sure to be up to date on all things happening in charter law both in our state and across the nation.  How?  Use the category drop down menu located in the side bar on the right and choose “Charter School Updates” to see all posts relating to the subject.)


How many of you have been at a summer cookout and have been asked, “I know your kid goes to the charter school over there down from the pool.  What exactly is a charter school anyway?”  How about at Thanksgiving dinner when all your distant relatives are together?  Doesn’t someone invariably ask you to tell them what makes a charter school different from other schools?  I’ve even been asked by the check-out person at the grocery store when they see my kid’s school t-shirt.

So, what do you tell them?

Wikipedia says that,

A charter school is a school that receives public money (and like other schools, may also receive private donations) but are not subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school’s charter.  Charter schools are opened and attended by choice.  While charter schools provide an alternative to other public schools, they are part of the public education system and are not allowed to charge tuition.


Um.  Well.  Okay.

What are you going to tell Great Uncle Earl when he asks what a charter school is at your next holiday get together?

A charter school is a public school of choice. It is public.  Public means no tuition.  In other words, it’s free.  And, you choose to go there.

A charter school offers innovation in education. A charter school has to meet the same state academic standards that every other school has to meet.  However, the school itself decides how it’s going to achieve those standards.

Now you know.

So go forth and educate the world.  Or at least your immediate community

Charter School Joins Advocates Across the Country for National School Choice Week


Local Charter school, The Learning Center!, joined 2.9 million charter school students nationwide last week in support of National School Choice Week.

Held every January, National School Choice Week focuses on increasing public awareness and empowering parents with the freedom to choose the best educational environments for their children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling.

The Learning Center! celebrated National School Choice Week on January 22-28, with an on-campus campaign of awareness that included increased social media presence, placing posters around the school, and distributing bright yellow School Choice Week scarves and stickers. “This campaign has sparked many questions about National School Choice week,” said school director, Mary Jo Dyre. “School choice is the movement that offers charter schools as a viable option in education. We are a North Carolina Public School Choice opportunity for education and parents who are seeking a choice for their students’ academic needs have said YES to choosing our school.”

The Learning Center! is among many school choice advocates paying close attention to the annual event. “With more than 21,392 events across the nation in 2017, National School Choice Week is now the world’s largest annual education-related celebration,” said Dana Bolyard, Social Media Director and Charter School Advocate for The Learning Center. “And with School Choice, more parents have the opportunity to choose motivating, challenging, and effective educational environments for their children than ever before.” The school was awarded a School Choice Leadership award last week in recognition of its dedication to providing all children with access to effective education options and it’s participation in the 2017 National School Choice Week.

Started in 2011, National School Choice Week is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical public awareness effort. Advocates for school choice believe that education is not “one size fits all” because not all children learn the same and therefore every child, and their parents, should have the opportunity to choose the best education to suit their needs.

The Learning Center! was one of the first of 34 charter schools to open its doors in 1997 when charter legislation was passed in North Carolina.

Facilities Improvements Continue at Charter School


2As the dust settled just in time for the start of the new school year, The Learning Center! Charter School completed another building improvement project. The  newly renovated Dining Commons got a facelift inside and out that students, faculty and parents will enjoy for years to come. The school added a new first aid station to the list of upgrades for the improvement project. Last year, the school completed the construction of a “Gymnatorium” that includes two P.E. workout areas and a stage for drama events. 20160808_075401The school contracted with Denny Laney for the exterior renovation and worked with several others to complete interior work on the Dining Commons. The renovation project began almost as soon as the school year ended in May. The final touches were complete just days before the start of the new school year. Laney Construction Company replaced the roof and Tom Miller did the drywall work. The school’s maintenance team, Bill Brechbill and John Lloyd also helped with the renovations.

TLC Welcomes New Board Member


The Learning Center! Charter School welcomes new school board member, Anna Ramirez Sharp for the 2016-2017 school year. Sharp has been elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors of The Learning Center! Charter School in Murphy.

Sharp and her husband, Bob, moved to Murphy in 2008 after working more than 30 years as an educator and educational consultant in Texas. She is bilingual and her professional experiences include serving as an instructional specialist in special education, assistant elementary principal, a facilitator for staff development, instructional intern, personnel recruiter, educational diagnostician, early childhood special education teacher and speech therapist.

Sharp earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Pan American University in Edinburg, Texas and a master of science from Texas A & M

University in Kingsville, Texas. She also holds professional certifications in mid-management, speech-language pathology, early childhood education-handicapped, language and/or learning disabilities, mentally retarded, educational diagnostician and kindergarten.

Sharp and her husband are volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters organization of Cherokee County and other community activities in and around Murphy.

“We welcome our newest highly motivated and credentialed community servant to our school board,” said board chairwoman, Cecilia Crawford. “Without the Board’s support and time volunteering to our school, we would not be able to have the exceptional instructional program that we have today.”

The Learning Center! is a tuition-free public charter school that operates independently from the local school district. The school itself is considered a school district and thus reports to a board of directors much the same way that traditional public schools work with and report to their boards. In addition, charter school’s accept students across county lines.

For more information call 828.835.7240 or visit naturallygrownkids.org. Visit the blog (tlcgrowzone.org/blog) and FaceBook page (facebook.com/TLCGrowZonePage).