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Education: Charter school gets new director and new site

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The manager of a teacher training program at the University of Texas will become the new director of the Coastal Montessori Charter School. The hiring was announced Thursday at a school family night program along with the approval of a contract for the school to buy 100 acres at Prince George for a permanent facility.

Nathalie Hunt, who is completing her doctorate at the University of Texas, will replace Lonnie Yancsurak as director of the year-old charter school. He is returning to California where he was principal of a start-up charter school before taking the job at Coastal Montessori. He is also completing a doctorate.

Hunt is the university facilitator for a program for Texas public school teachers and undergraduates pursuing certificates to teach English as a second language. Before that she taught lower elementary classes at two Montessori schools in California.

“She has the Montessori passion,” said Rob Horvath, who chairs the board at Coastal Montessori.

Charter schools receive public funds, but have independent boards and are exempt from some state regulations.

The roles of the founding director and the director of an established school are different, Horvath said. Hunt’s doctorate is in curriculum and instruction. That fits with the charter school’s efforts to adapt to the Common Core standards that are being implemented in South Carolina schools, he said.

Coastal Montessori opened in August in a vacant wing at Waccamaw Middle School. It plans to build a permanent facility west of Highway 17 at Prince George. The property is owned by the University of South Carolina Development Foundation, which acquired over 1,200 acres from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. after the agency foreclosed on a previous owner.

The school is seeking a $5 million loan from the federal Rural Development agency for the land and building. It hopes to open the school in 2015.

“I think they’re a perfect buyer,” said Russ Meekins, the USC Foundation director.

The land was appraised at $750,000, but wetlands and endangered-species habitat limit development to 10 acres. The school will pay $625,000 for the property.

The location south of the Pawleys Island area will help the school attract more minority students from the Georgetown area, charter board members say. That’s a goal of the school that is mirrored by the U.S. Department of Justice, which must approval public school facilities in the county under a desegregation order from the federal courts.

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