Wednesday, November 14, 2012

MNPS Board Votes to Close a Charter, Move on From Great Hearts

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 8:53 AM

At The City Paper, Andrea Zelinski reports on yet another school board meeting focused primarily on charter schools. The board, before what Zelinski describes as "a standing-room only crowd," voted to shut down one charter — the struggling Smithson Craighead Middle School — and ultimately decided to pass on a legal fight with the state over Great Hearts.

From the CP:

While the school had made improvements over the last three years, the charter school still lagged behind average MNPS schools, according to district records.

Students across the district averaged 38.9 percent proficient in math, 41.5 percent in reading language arts and 44.9 percent in science. Proficiency among students from Smithson Craighead were 7.5 percent, 18 percent and 10.9 percent, respectively.

Deciding now to close the school allows parents to apply to other choice schools across the district during the “optional schools” application period that runs through Nov. 30 if they don’t want to go back to their zoned schools.

The Tennessee Charter Schools Association agreed with the closure in a statement released shortly after the vote.

“We support the decision of MNPS and believe the Smithson Craighead students deserve a better school option,” said Matt Throckmorton, the association’s executive director. “We applaud the hard work of the contributors to this charter school as well as the MNPS board for this difficult decision.”

The board’s decision on Smithson Craighead came immediately after discussion of the Great Hearts dilemma, during which the board shot down a motion to hire independent legal counsel after identifying a potential conflict of interest with its current counsel. The board, however, left itself open to consider re-evaluating it’s legal counsel going forward at next month’s meeting.

“I feel like we’re in a 12-chapter book. The final pages are being written at last, so we’ll see what happens next,” said Will Pinkston, a board member.

The board also gave Director of Schools Jesse Register the go-ahead to reach out to officials at Great Hearts Academies to discuss what went wrong and how things might go more smoothly if the charter operator wants to make another pass at opening a school in Nashville. All indications are that the Phoenix-based operator would like to, but that they'd prefer to be dealing with a statewide charter authorizer next time.

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