Metro Director of Schools Jesse Register’s administration has recommended denial of Great Hearts Academies’ amended charter application, delivering another potential blow to the Phoenix-based charter group’s desire for five Nashville charters.
“The original concerns remain,” Alan Coverstone, executive director of Metro schools’ Office of Innovation, told The City Paper Monday. He said concerns are primarily related to diversity questions stemming from its school location and transportation plans –– two areas that Great Hearts’ revised application sought to address.
“We feel like there are enough questions about their ability to replicate with a diverse population and their ability to attract and serve a diverse population that we recommended denial at this time,” Coverstone said.
Leaders of five charter groups separately appealed May 29 Metro school board decisions to deny applications to operate publicly financed, privately led charters in Nashville.
The school board is set to vote on appeals Tuesday.
On Monday, Metro schools’ Office of Innovation recommended approval of two of the five appealing charter groups: KIPP Nashville, hoping to expand to the Whites Creek area, and Purpose Preparatory Academy, a school that has worked with the Tennessee Charter School Incubator.
Along with Great Hearts, Metro’s Office of Innovation recommended the board deny amended applications of Excel Academy and Genesis Transitions.
Metro’s central office and Metro Charter Review Committee had already recommended approval of KIPP, though the board went ahead in May and denied its application. The recommendation to approve Purpose Prep marks a reversal.
The district’s Great Hearts recommendation came even though the charter review committee stated in its recommendation that Great Hearts’ proposal met approval consideration based purely on scoring rubric. The district took note of the discrepancy in its recommendation report.
“The committee’s reassessment of the amended application addressed the details of the rubric which did not allow for full and complete assessment of significant issues related to the best interests of the students, the district and the community, and stops short of an enthusiastic endorsement,” the district’s recommendation report on Great Hearts reads.
“The committee also cited questions that lay beyond its ability to decide,” the report continues. “Full consideration of the resubmitted application leads to the conclusion that the grounds for the initial denial recommendation have not been overcome, despite cosmetic adjustments and significant political pressure.”
Officials of Great Hearts had amended their original charter application to attempt to address diversity concerns, electing to offer “limited busing as a step to build our service footprint across the Metro region.” In addition, officials revealed they are “actively searching” within a 2.9-square-mile area near West End Avenue for a school location. It listed potential options for schools one through five.
But the Office of Innovation’s report cites concerns despite these changes.
“The transportation plan offers a maximum of two buses, each serving one or two bus stops on routes located farther than 15 miles of the school location,” the report reads. “While this will enable some students (depending on applications and enrollment) to attend Great Hearts, it is potentially minimal in its impact because the school is not offering transportation for all.”