Commissioners lend their unanimous support to revised plans for proposed charter school

It wasn’t a new talking point so much as the pointed horn of a narwhal that confronted Alamance County’s commissioners this week when they agreed to back a charter school developer’s revised plans for his latest educational endeavor.

In fact, Peter Morcombe literally trooped in with a plush, teal-colored narwhal when he approached the commissioners on Tuesday to present them with his amended proposal for a new charter school known as Unity Global Academy.

Morcombe explained that his purpose in bringing this arctic cetacean, which is best known for the unicorn-like tusk that spirals out from its forehead, is that it had just been designated as the mascot for his prospective new school.

But it was the support of the county, rather than the symbolic strength of his sigil, that Morcombe insisted he really could use to get the state to sign off on his plans for the academy.

“We have a high-stakes interview next week in Raleigh,” he told the commissioners. “This is do or die, and the thing that helps us the most is political support.”

Morcombe, whose previous projects in Alamance County include River Mill Academy and the Clover Garden School, had initially secured the political support of the commissioners for his most recent venture in April. At the time, the county’s governing board voted 3-to-2 to endorse his plans for the school, which he intended to set up in a brand new facility that he hoped to bankroll with cryptocurrency investments.

Morcombe’s plans suffered a setback earlier this summer when the bottom fell out of the cryptocurrency market. Since then, the British-born charter school enthusiast has turned his attention to existing buildings that he may be able to purchase or lease with the money he still has available.

Morcombe told the commissioners that he and his colleagues are presently looking at three different prospects for the academy’s home. But even without a contract for a building in hand, his vision for the academy was enough to win a unanimous nod from the county’s governing board.

In the end, Morcombe even received an endorsement from commissioners Pam Thompson and Craig Turner, who had previously declined to join their colleagues in their endorsement of Unity Global Academy.

County commissioner Craig Turner looking at a book by Thomas Sowell given to each commissioner by Peter Morcombe

A one-time member of the Alamance-Burlington school board, Thompson tried to explain her own apparent change of heart before Tuesday’s 4-to-0 decision.

“I’m not against anything,” she told her colleagues. “I just did not want public school children to feel like they were getting beat up on…But what we’re supposed to do is take care of each other.”

County commissioner Pam Thompson

Turner, meanwhile, had attributed his dissent in April to his desire for more time to dig into Morcombe’s proposal.

Absent from Tuesday’s meeting was John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, who had joined the majority in endorsing Morcombe’s original proposal.