Friday, January 31, 2014

FOIA Friday: What Metro Schools Won’t Give Us This Week

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 3:08 PM

Letter are due to MNPS today revealing who will apply in the spring to open new charter schools, but the school district is refusing to hand over the “letters of intent” they’ve received so far.

The content and quantity of letters are the first indication of what's to come in this year’s charter application cycle, particularly in light of two new school board approved charter school restrictions that some speculate could open up the district to a legal challenge.

“The deadline for us to receive those letters of intent is the end of business today, so we can provide them to you Monday morning,” Olivia Brown, a district spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

Pressed to provide the letters the district has already received, she replied, “We don’t have this information so it will be Monday morning before it is available.”

KIPP Nashville — which is part of a network of charter schools planning to open an elementary school in 2015 — submitted a letter of intent Thursday (dated Friday) letting the district know it is considering opening a second elementary school that same year, according to Randy Dowell, the charter school’s executive director. The school could be a conversion of an existing but low-performing public school, he said, but added he didn't know where.

The district would not provide that letter, or any others officials have received so far.

Some charter school advocates had toyed with filing applications outside of the new restriction that charter applicants only consider opening in overpopulated South Nashville or convert failing schools. Applying to open a school outside of those parameters could lead the district to reject the school, leading to a legal challenge.

The district has repeatedly slow-walked responses to requests for documents and information. Among them was the district holding on to a report from a contractor offering a critical look at the district's central office; a multi-month delay handing over a list of concerns teachers provided to district officials; and failing to provide basic details about enrollment and finances of its current pre-K program days before the district pitched an expansion program.

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