Dean criticizes board's KIPP charter rejection, hopes for Great Hearts solution

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 11:22pm

Mayor Karl Dean, injecting himself into two Metro school board decisions, said he’s “deeply disappointed” about the board’s vote to deny KIPP Academy’s charter expansion and hopes Great Hearts Academies would address diversity concerns in a revised charter application.

“The Great Hearts academic program is understandably attractive to many Nashville parents seeking additional educational options,” Dean, an outspoken charter advocate, said in a statement Thursday evening. “I encourage Great Hearts and Metro Schools to work together to find a solution.”

Dean’s statement comes two days after the school board Tuesday voted to approve two publicly financed, privately led charters and to deny the applications of eight others. Rejected charter applicants have until June 13 to appeal the board’s decision.

School board chair Gracie Porter told The City Paper Thursday she wasn’t prepared to respond to Dean’s statement when asked to comment. “Applicants always have the opportunity to reapply,” she said. “That’s a part of the process. That would be strictly up to them.”

Randy Dowell, executive director of KIPP Nashville, has vowed he would appeal the board’s decision. Great Hearts officials have not revealed their plans.

KIPP, a national charter organization that operates a middle school in East Nashville, is hoping to win approval for a new Whites Creek-area middle school, a plan the school board voted 5-1, with one abstention, to reject. The vote came despite the Metro charter review committee’s recommendation to approve KIPP’s expansion.

Board member Mark North, who represents parts of Madison on the board, unleashed a series of concerns with KIPP’s academic record, which set the tone for the board’s ultimate rejection of its expansion proposal Tuesday.

In his statement, Dean defended KIPP’s reputation.

“KIPP is one of the most highly-regarded national charter organizations in the country and does an outstanding job in an area of great need in Nashville –– educating our at-risk children,” Dean said.

“We have made great progress as a city in our approach to giving parents more choices through charters, and this denial sends a negative message to the rest of the country as to our position on charter schools,” Dean said.

Great Hearts, which operates 12 charter schools in the Phoenix area, has proposed opening a network five charter schools in Nashville but hasn’t specified where the first school would locate.

Great Hearts’ entry to Nashville followed a parent-led push for a new charter school in the affluent West Nashville area, leading critics to believe the school would cater to students whose parents could just as easily pay for private schooling.

After no deliberation, the board voted unanimously to deny its application at the recommendation of Metro’s charter review committee, which cited its lack of a location plan, transportation plan and policy to ensure diversity, among other concerns.

On Great Hearts, Dean said the school board “raised legitimate issues of diversity and transportation,” adding that “charters need to be positioned in a way that serves the entire community.”

Nonetheless, the mayor indicated a desire for Great Hearts to appeal the board’s decision once it alters its application.

“I hope Great Hearts can reasonably address those concerns in a revised application and children in Nashville can benefit from the high-level academic program for which this charter operator is known,” Dean said.

In putting his clout behind KIPP and making a softer appeal for Great Hearts, the mayor singled out two charter organizations he’s extended his hand to in the past.

Dean routinely speaks highly of KIPP as a high-performing charter. He also spearheaded a $16 million Metro-funded renovation of the school’s existing East Nashville facility, the old Highland Heights building on Douglas Avenue.

Meanwhile, the mayor led the opening remarks at one of Great Hearts’ first community meetings in Nashville after the charter group arrived from Arizona to test the demand for its school here.

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2 Comments on this post:

By: CitizensWin on 6/1/12 at 1:23

For Immediate Release:
Open Letter to Mayor Karl Dean
Please Forward

Dear Mayor,

I saw this quote from you: “We have made great progress as a city in our approach to giving parents more choices through charters, and this denial sends a negative message to the rest of the country as to our position on charter schools.” And respectfully want to say, 'Speak for yourself.'

My view is that the current 500 students in Charter and the proposed 3000 additional students at 25 million cannibalizes the funds for the entire 79000 students currently enrolled. The more noble goal is to make all schools equally important without further segregating the student population. The ultimate positive message would be to defund charter schools and announce that the county will strive toward Hume-Fogg standards in every single school.

Let's get creative and aim higher for every student and end the lotteries for better schools through charter. Ask Michael Dell for used laptops for every student. Talk to Michael Curb about supporting a county wide initiative. Build vo-tech centers for trades. Teach children that they can achieve anything in the world because the world is right in front of them. Encourage teachers to hang in there and inspire their students to achieve. Inspire others.

Because I believe that the slippery slope of charter schools sends the message to children that life is a game of chance and privilege. And when those children grow up with a chip on their shoulder, the individual and community suffer the consequences. 'If I had only gotten into Hume-Fogg...', should not be the mantra of 78500 children starting out as adults. 'I loved my school' is a far greater remembrance.

Trust funds, wealth, and privilege may pay for private educations like MBA, Harpeth Hall, USN, and Ensworth. And that's fine. But this taxpayer sees a greater good in addressing the larger audience of students without penalty. Swing for the fences Mayor, spread the wealth to all schools, inspire the school board, and lead the teachers to a greater tomorrow. This is your hour to enhance the entire public school system without prejudice.

With your help,

Citizens Win

By: modern4life on 6/1/12 at 1:40

Bravo. Couldn't have said it better, Citizens Win!