Two weeks after the Metro school board rejected its state-ordered charter application, Great Hearts Academies officials submitted a 46-page document to the board Monday they insist addresses three areas that are contingent for approval.
But whether the application — and the newly submitted materials — satisfies the nine-member school board won’t become clear until Sept. 11 when it reconsiders Great Hearts’ proposal.
In defying a state order to approve the Phoenix-based charter organization’s plan for a West Nashville charter school on Aug. 14, Metro school board members argued they still hadn’t seen how Great Hearts would address three contingencies required by the Tennessee Board of Education: that Great Hearts hire licensed teachers, receive authorization for just one school initially instead of five, and that it adopt a diversity plan that “mirrors” Metro’s diversity plan for choice schools.
In a letter addressed to Director of Schools Jesse Register and the Metro school board, Great Hearts CEO Dan Scoggin and President Peter Bezanson say Metro officials had told them addressing these contingencies in additional materials prior to the Aug. 14 board meeting wasn’t a prerequisite.
“We were informed previously by MNPS staff that there was no need for Great Hearts to submit further materials, as the MNPS board would simply approve Great Hearts application subject to those contingencies, and then the contingencies would then be part of the charter contract,” Scoggin and Bezanson wrote.
Nevertheless, the letter goes on to supply Register and the board with the charter group’s attempt to ease these contingency concerns “as another expression of Great Hearts commitment.”
On teachers, Great Hearts officials say: “Great Hearts will employ licensed teachers insofar and for so long as required by law.”
Addressing its number of schools, the letter reaffirms Great Hearts’ long-term plan is to open five, but is seeking authorization for only one during the current cycle: “Great Hearts understands that the state board instructions to MNPS require MNPS to approve and authorize a charter school for only one school in this application cycle ... .”
But the final and most debated contingency — regarding diversity — is likely more open to interpretation from the school board, which has expressed fears that the proposed Nashville charter school would serve a predominantly white, affluent student population.
In its letter, Great Hearts points to the diversity plan it submitted to Metro in June on appeal in an amended application prior to its second rejection. “Great Hearts plan meets or exceeds the plan that MNPS utilizes for its own schools of choice,” the letter reads.
In the letter, Great Hearts officials allude to “incorrect statements” about its diversity plan and the district’s diversity plan for its own choice schools. It outlines Great Hearts’ diversity plan in bullet-form:
In the letter, Scoggin and Bezanson ask Metro school officials to inform them if they feel the new information does not “completely satisfy” the state board’s instructions. They go on to express “disappointment and concern” over Metro’s handling of its charter application.