Charter educator from Houston to head state's Achievement School District

Monday, May 9, 2011 at 6:18pm

Chris Barbic, the founder and president of a Houston charter school network, has been tapped as the founding superintendent of Tennessee’s Achievement School District.

Barbic, a Vanderbilt University alumnus who operated YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, is prepared to assume a newly created position to oversee the state’s Achievement School District, which includes 13 historically underperforming schools across the state.

YES Prep’s website has announced the hire. Barbic did not immediately respond to a voicemail left by The City Paper.

Carved out of the state’s 2010 First to the Top legislation, the Achievement School District is part of lawmakers’ attempt to address chronically poor performing schools. The concept is modeled off the Recovery School District in Louisiana, launched in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Achievement School District is supposed to assist in five categories: oversight, facilitation, human capital, operations and support.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Tennessee and Louisiana $30 million to expand charter schools, with $3 million of that to go directly to the Achievement School District.

In Nashville, Glencliff High School and Cameron Middle School –– he latter of which is undertaking an overhaul to become a charter school –– qualify for the special district, reserved for schools that fall into “Restructuring II” of federal No Child Left Behind benchmarks.

If the Achievement School District takes over a school, it has the authority to operate the school unilaterally –– outside the domain of a local school board and superintendent –– and contract the operations to outside groups. Though Glencliff and Cameron still belong to Metro Nashville Public Schools, the district has outsourced operations at Cameron to LEAD Academy and its founder Jeremy Kane.

Moving forward, a group known as the Coalition of Large School Systems –– which represents the state’s five largest school districts, including that of Metro –– is to partner with the Achievement School District to help engineer reform efforts.

Besides Nashville, the schools eligible for the Achievement School District are in Chattanooga, Jackson, Knoxville and Memphis. The 13 schools represent approximately 13,000 students.