The Metro Nashville Public Schools board met Monday afternoon for a special-called meeting to discuss outstanding charter school contracts and to pass a resolution in support of public teachers.
First, the board discussed an ongoing contract regarding Knowledge Academy at the Crossings. In January, the board denied Knowledge Academy Middle School’s renewal request. The charter submitted an application to the state charter commission, but later withdrew before submitting the emergency amendment application through MNPS. MNPS denied that application, so KA appealed to the state charter commission, where it was approved. The MNPS board’s only options were to approve the contract or seek legal action.
“Based on the legal advice that I heard in the executive session, I don't want to prolong the discussion with a vote we really can't control,” said District 4 representative John Little. “And so listening to both, I think it's important that we hold our space, but also important that we just don't waste time going down the legal route if it's not going to benefit us in the long run.”
District 9 representative Abigail Tylor made a motion to request that Metro Legal appeal the state charter commission’s decision — it failed. District 8 representative Gini Pupo-Walker’s motion to approve the contract passed 5-4.
“I’m disappointed about how messy this is,” said Pupo-Walker. “I feel like we are at the mercy of sloppiness on behalf of various entities here, and getting the bad rap for other people’s sloppiness.”
The board also ruled on the Tennessee Nature Academy, a proposed charter school that would emphasize outdoor and nature-based instruction. The proposed charter was initially denied in April. TNA appealed the board’s decision, but there weren’t enough votes to either approve or deny at the July 12 board meeting (which was intended to be the only meeting of the month). Ultimately, on Monday, the board voted 5-4 to deny TNA’s appeal. According to the district charter office’s review, TNA partially met academic and operational standards but did not meet the district’s financial standards. These findings mirror those from the July 12 meeting, but at that meeting TNA representatives alleged errors in the district’s initial application report during public comment. District charter office representatives acknowledged these allegations at Monday’s meeting, and District 6 representative Fran Bush asked for more information about the discrepancies. Director of Schools Adrienne Battle said board members had received more info on the discrepancies. Bush said she didn’t see it.
Bush, Pupo-Walker, District 3 representative Emily Masters and District 1 representative Sharon Gentry expressed discomfort in the charter application process.
“I too am uncomfortable with this process,” said Masters. “And it was a process created by the state of Tennessee in which we are then charged with our charter school office going through these applications and, based on those standards, advising us on whether or not all the standards have been met. I absolutely trust [Director of Charter Schools Shereka] Roby-Grant and all of the others involved with the process follow it correctly.”
“There's got to be a reason why questions around ‘how can the charter move the district forward’ is not a part of the criteria,” said Gentry.
The board ended the meeting by passing a resolution in support of public school teachers, a direct response to the Hillsdale College controversy that has played out in the state over the past month. The resolution condemns disparaging comments about public school teachers made by Hillsdale president and Gov. Bill Lee’s education adviser, Larry Arnn. It acknowledges “the hardworking and dedicated teaching faculty in our schools,” and calls on Gov. Lee to “sever ties with Dr. Arnn, Hillsdale College, and any associated or similar programs that attempt to discredit teachers and propagate untruths about our public schools.”