Christian school closes after brawl at basketball game, but some say there's more to it

An aerial shot of the property Northside Christian Academy shared with Northside Baptist Church at 333 Jeremiah Blvd. in Charlotte, North Carolina.
An aerial shot of the property Northside Christian Academy shared with Northside Baptist Church at 333 Jeremiah Blvd. in Charlotte, North Carolina. | Google Earth

Northside Christian Academy, a private Christian school founded in 1961 and operated as a ministry of North Side Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, is no longer in operation due to low enrollment following a brawl at a high school basketball game with a rival team in January.

Former parents and staff at the school revealed that the brawl at the basketball game was simply one of a long list of challenges that led to the school announcing in May that it was closing the K-12 school, according to The Charlotte Observer.

“Unfortunately due to, but not limited to, low re-enrollment and the viability and sustainability of the ministry, we determined that it was necessary to close,” the school said in a May 6 email to parents of the school, known for its sports teams called the Knights.

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Keizah Shouse, whose son attended high school at Northside for the last two years, told The Charlotte Observer that in January, a parent from an opposing team punched a player and caused a brawl to break out. Leadership at Northside Christian Academy responded by expelling the player, ending the season for the basketball team.

That move sparked an exodus of students as parents began removing their children from the school, where tuition runs about  $9,850 to $11,650, annually. In North Carolina, the state’s Education Assistance Authority provides approximately $7,000 per student to families who want to send their child to a private school instead of a public one, regardless of income.

Parents told the Observer that after the brawl, Northside Pastor Michael Landrum decided to end the basketball team’s season without providing a “real explanation.”

Edward Cooke, the school’s most recent basketball coach, told the Observer that despite the team's success, the administration was generally hostile to the athletes.

“The boys would get reprimanded for little things,” Cooke told the publication. “It didn’t feel like we were part of the school.”

He further noted that many of the just under 300 students had started attending because of him. Cooke said after the basketball season was cut short earlier this year, he chose to leave and many of the students left with him.

“A lot of the kids were at that school because of me, so I brought in a lot of kids,” Cooke explained. “I had 30 kids I was planning to bring into the school.”

Teachers reportedly told parents that only about 60 students had re-enrolled for the 2024-25 school year.

Prior to the brawl that sparked the exodus of students, former parents and teachers said they had been concerned about general management at the school.

According to Cooke,  the boys’ basketball team did not get rings after winning the state championship last year.

“They said they didn’t have the money and didn’t want to raise the money to pay for them,” Cooke recalled. “We also played half the season with no heat in the gym.”

Felisha Wall, whose son was in eighth grade at Northside this year, said she was concerned about what the school was doing with the fees it collected.

“There was no air or heat in the school, but there was in the church,” she told the Observer. “I was wondering where our money was going.”

Landrum told the publication that the school was operated within the church’s budget which isn’t open to public scrutiny despite benefiting from the use of public funds.

“Northside Baptist Church ministries, including Northside Christian Academy and daycare all operate under one ministry budget approved annually by Northside members,” he said, declining to answer further questions.

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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