TSU among 13 groups to consider opening charter schools in Metro

Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 5:52pm

Thirteen organizations have signaled they intend to apply this spring to open new charter schools in Metro, a sign of the booming times for publicly financed, privately led charters in Nashville.

The deadline was Wednesday to submit letters of intent to seek charter approval for the 2012 charter-review cycle. Charter groups that submitted letters aren’t obligated to submit formal applications in April but the letters are a prerequisite to move forward.

Formal charter applications must be delivered to the district’s central office by April 2. “Review teams” then analyze the applications before recommending approval or disapproval to the Metro Nashville Board of Education. The school board is scheduled to consider charter applications on May 22.

Metro has 11 operating charter schools, with four additional schools authorized to open next school year.

Among the crop of this year’s 13 charter applications is Phoenix-based Great Hearts Academies, which arrived in Nashville following a push for a charter school in parts of West Nashville, neighborhoods that are largely affluent.

Great Hearts has proposed an initial K-9 school, with plans to add a high school at a later point. Great Hearts has listed an expected enrollment of 592 students for its first year and 834 students long-term.

Tennessee State University also appears to be getting in the charter mix. An application for a charter school called University Bound Academy lists TSU interim President Portia Shields as the applicant’s main contact. The school would be for kindergarten through eighth grade.

Contacted by The City Paper, Shields discussed a science and technology-based school housed on the TSU campus. The charter school, governed by a board that would include TSU's deans, would allow the university to live up to a "responsibility for helping our neighborhood," she said.

"You should see loving arms wrapped around the children in the neighborhood and supported by our students, our faculty and staff, and the community ... ," Shields said.

KIPP Academy Nashville, which already operates a middle school in East Nashville, has submitted a letter of intent to apply for an additional school serving grades five through 12. Randy Dowell, executive director of KIPP Nashville, said he would like to start by opening a middle school at an undetermined location.

This year’s charter applicants include four fellows from the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, an apparatus Mayor Karl Dean helped launch in 2009 to assist educators in getting their charter schools off the ground. Boston-based Building Excellent Schools supports the incubator.

The proposed incubator schools are Purpose Preparatory Academy, a K-4 charter; Intrepid College Prep, a 5-12 charter; Nashville Girls School, a 9-12 charter school; and Nashville Classical, a K-4 charter.

Other charter groups that submitted letters of intent to the school district are:

• Antioch Together Prep — a K-5 charter school

• Aspire College Preparatory Academy — led by an Oakland, Calif.-based charter organization, which has applied for two K-8 schools

• Cardinal Academy — a 6-12 school

• Excel Academy — a charter school that would target adults

• Fusion Connection — a 9-12 charter school

• Genesis Transitio — a charter than would target students ages 17 to 22 years old who “would not typically continue on to higher education programs.”

10 Comments on this post:

By: Rasputin72 on 2/3/12 at 6:59

I think they should turn the entire charter school concept over to Tennessee State. The people who need and want charter schools are 97% familar with the way things are done at Tennessee State.

By: Nitzche on 2/3/12 at 7:58

TSU, the model education formula...has been working for 100 years...way to go State

By: jeremyjones on 2/3/12 at 9:19

Its misleading to say these organizations are private as this does in the beginning paragraphs. Charter schools are open-enrollment public schools and should not be equated with private schools or business organizations.

By: edreformfan on 2/3/12 at 10:00

It's exciting that charter schools are gaining momentum across the city. Though the movement has been far from perfect (in Nashville and elsewhere), great things are already happening in many of the existing schools. Let's hope that the new applicants are taking notes from the successes and failures of the existing schools and will push all schools- charter and traditional public schools- to strive for excellence.

By: Curtis Maxwell on 2/3/12 at 1:30


By: BigPapa on 2/3/12 at 2:34

TSU can't manage full grown adults, I can only imagine how terrible they would be with handling small children.

By: BigPapa on 2/3/12 at 2:34

TSU can't manage full grown adults, I can only imagine how terrible they would be with handling small children.

By: drd on 2/4/12 at 9:43

@jeremyjones, Most charters are now run by Education Management Organizations (EMO), which are privately run businesses. While the charters themselves may still be public in the sense that they are open-enrollment, they are definitely connected to private entities. And in many cases, very profitable ones.

By: townes on 2/5/12 at 9:18

Actually drd, to my knowledge all of the significant charter management organizations operating today are not for profit corporations. I know this is the case for KIPP, Summit, Rocketship, Basis Schools, Yes College Prep, Aspire, and Great Hearts. A possible exception is Edison Schools, which was founded (by Tennessean Chris Whittle) as a for profit venture in the 1990's., although I'm not sure it has remained one. To my recollection they never made much if any money, but I haven't checked on them in a while. But the model for all of the CMOs which are in Nashville or applying for charters here -- or the ones that I know of who are thinking about it, for that matter, is a not profit CMO, operating not for profit schools. So they are not for profit, public schools, open to all students, without any required test scores or other academic limits on eligibility, (unlike academic magnet schools). The biggest difference between charters and other public schools is that in most school districts, including Nashville, they are responsible for providing their own facilities, and so receive less funding from the district than district operated schools. I hope this helps. Townes Duncan

By: Gulenschools on 2/5/12 at 6:45

The school district should allow the Gulen Charter Schools to expand into Tennessee. Knoxville Charter Academy is slated to open in the fall 2012 with 10 stipulations. Denying ex-mayor Willie Herenton's plea for 9 of these gulen charters schools under the Cosmos Foundation (Harmony Science Academy) is just plain unfair and islamophobic.
Imam Fethullah Gulen resides in the USA and although only has a 5th grade education has managed to expand to over 120 charter schools in the USA managed and operated by his followers. Additionally there are over 600 of these Gulen Schools worldwide.
Can you please approve these schools so we can start the paperwork for more h1-b visas - we must get more teachers from abroad.
You won't be sorry, these kids that go to a gulen managed charter school excel.