In a strongly worded and sometimes confrontational letter, officials from Great Hearts Academies have made a concession as they appeal the Metro school board's decision to deny their plan to open five charter schools in Nashville.
The revised application includes a transportation plan — something they claim is not needed but was cited as a deficiency by the board's charter review committee — and identifies the West Nashville area where they would put their first school.
"The decision rendered by the MNPS Board of Public Education on our charter application was not compliant with board policy or state charter law and we appeal to you for reconsideration," reads the letter from CEO Dan Scoggin and Great Hearts America-Tennessee President Peter Bezanson.
Metro’s Charter Review Committee, which recommended the board reject Great Hearts’ initial charter application last month, is in the process of reviewing five charter groups that have appealed prior denials.
The board will rule on appeals at its June 26 meeting.
Great Hearts is currently searching for property or a building within a 2.9-square-mile area bounded by White Bridge Road, I-40 and 25th Avenue along Centennial Park and West End Avenue. This would be the first of five proposed academies, a point of contention between Great Hearts and MNPS, which claimed that it has no process to award five charter schools at once.
Great Hearts responded that the way they applied for the five charters in one application is actually how district staff had asked for the school operator to apply. In their denial, the board said that the district does not have a process to award five charters.
"MNPS has designed a process to approve the first charter, conditionally approve the remaining four charters and utilize performance standards that they have created in order to 'green-light' those conditionally approved charters," the letter said. "For MNPS to claim that they have no process and no performance benchmarks for approving and then green-lighting conditionally approved charters is to ignore the extensive documentation they created and required Great Hearts to submit."
Great Hearts did alter their transportation plan to add proposed point-to-point busing from locations within the city and then from future academy locations. But this busing plan would only exist for the first, West Nashville location.
The operator also sidestepped the board's concern about a lack of a diversity plan, arguing instead that they would market the school's open enrollment policy throughout the city. It also noted that "if student demand exceeds the number of available seats, a blind, random lottery is used to select students. This is the approach prescribed by both state and federal law and followed by thousands of charter schools across the country."