Board member considers new charter school post

Friday, June 26, 2009 at 1:29pm

School board member Alan Coverstone is pondering resigning his seat on the board to accept a new position with Metro Nashville Public Schools, overseeing the implementation of new charter schools policies.

Coverstone confirmed his interest in the position to The City Paper on Friday. He said he would only consider the job if the vacancy does not attract sufficient talented applicants. He wants to make sure the job has “top-notch candidates.”

“I have not submitted any applications,” Coverstone said. “I haven’t made any moves to resign. I am very focused on [the new] position and I have been from the standpoint of it being something we really need in the district. I’m excited it’s posted and it’s moving in that direction.”

Asked to respond to a spreading rumor that he was leaning toward applying for the position and resigning from the board should he be hired, Coverstone said, “it would be unusual, I think, if I weren’t interested in that position.” Coverstone has been a staunch advocate for charter schools, which recently had their scope expanded by state legislation.

Coverstone, who works as the academic dean at Montgomery Bell Academy, was elected to the board last year and represents Bellevue and parts of Belle Meade. Should he leave his position on the school board, a replacement would be appointed by Metro Council.

“Anybody who’s as into education and making a change as I am ought to be excited about this job opportunity. It would be foolish for me not to be interested in that,” Coverstone said. “I have a good job, and I enjoy what I’m doing on the school board. … You’d like to know my top choice? I’d like to see a dynamite candidate come take this job, who has a great vision and is smarter than I am and ready to go. That would be my ideal. But I can’t underscore enough how important I think it is that it be done and be done well.”

According to the district’s job description for the position, the 12-month administrative job would involve managing the charter school application process and overseeing regulatory requirements for compliance, as well as working with the Tennessee Department of Education and as a liaison between charter schools and private schools and MNPS.

In his time on the board, Coverstone has worked as an advocate for charter schools. He has served on a working group that, several months ago, proposed a slate of changes to district charter school policies.

The individual who takes on the new charter school position, Coverstone said, could not only facilitate an improved application process, but could work with Director of Schools Jesse Register to identify district needs and recruit appropriate charter schools to the system. Coverstone said Mayor Karl Dean could also be involved in recruiting charter schools to the area. Dean, for his part, has publicly stated that he would like to be involved in seeking and recruiting new charter schools for Nashville.

Charter schools are publicly funded, and privately operated schools, which have seen some success in Nashville. The state legislature recently approved changes to Tennessee’s current charter school laws, which allow expanded charter school eligibility and set a cap of as many as 20 charter schools that can be established in Nashville.

Metro Nashville Public Schools has three charter schools in operation: LEAD Academy, Smithson-Craighead, and KIPP Academy.

Two new charter schools — Smithson-Craighead's middle school and Global Academy — will start serving students this fall.

Once they are part of the school system, charter schools must meet the same federal and state educational guidelines as other public schools. Charter schools receive local and state funding, but no public funds for building or transportation.