HomeNewsA look at why JMCSS Board rejected ACE's charter school application

A look at why JMCSS Board rejected ACE’s charter school application

Dale Thomas’ time speaking during Jackson-Madison County School Board meetings usually isn’t that long.

His time reading the resolution up for a vote during the Board’s special called meeting on Thursday was an exception to that trend.

The recommendation from the charter review committee came with 51 paragraphs of inadequacies in the application to bring a charter school to JMCSS from American Classical Education, and it took Thomas – the attorney for JMCSS and the Board – a total of 17:32 minutes to read it.

Deputy Superintendent Ricky Catlett got a round of applause from the crowd of about 70 packed into the boardroom when he got up and brought Thomas a bottle of water near the end of the reading.

After a question from Board member Harvey Walden and a statement from Board member Debbie Gaugh, it was time to vote. A yes vote accepted the resolution and rejected the application, a no vote rejected the resolution and accepted the application.

Gaugh passed. Walden voted no. All seven of the other members voted yes.

The vote came after seven people spoke during a rare time of public comments in the meeting not governed by the Board’s executive committee’s regulations regarding public comments. ACE CEO Phil Schwenk was the first to speak and made himself to answer any questions from the Board, which there were none. Another official from ACE spoke as well.

Among the other five who spoke, most spoke in opposition to ACE, but not all, as Brandilynn Taylor read a statement within her three minutes calling out the district for metrics recorded at the state level that don’t reflect measurements as favorable as those reported by the district last year, saying a charter school would help improve those metrics.

Other community members spoke against the charter school, questioning ACE’s methods, purpose and how much funding it would pull from the district as a whole.

Here are some of the highlights of the resolution Thomas read that led the super majority of the Board to reject the application:

  • The services it would provide do not match or exceed those offered by the district
  • A projected negative impact of $1.28 million (this was the subject of Walden’s question, asking where that number came from, which was pulled from a study done by a group paid for by a group that oppose charter schools, as mentioned by Gaugh)
  • Incomplete or inaccurate information such as referring to Madison County as other counties in Tennessee (ACE applied for schools in five counties)
  • A lack of proposed location for the schools within the 500 square miles of Madison County
  • A lack of engagement with the community and even a lack of affirmation from a couple of groups the application claimed to have engaged with
  • Curriculum standards don’t line up with the state’s standards
  • Intervention plans and plans for special population students aren’t confirmed
  • No tutoring or summer school opportunities provided to keep children on track to read on the third-grade level before they get to fourth grade
  • A requirement to earn 70 percent to pass isn’t in line with state law and policy
  • Numerous deficiencies in the academic plan that are either required by state policy or are less than that required by the district
  • Not enough money planned for laptops for all students
  • Too many interruptions in instructional time during its daily schedule
  • Numerous deficiencies regarding special population students
  • IEPs wouldn’t be required for every gifted student, which a lack of an IEP for students deemed to need one is illegal
  • Lack of planning for specific areas such as funding technology and school safety

The rejection doesn’t end ACE’s application process. They have 30 days to file an appeal with JMCSS.

“We’re going to discuss this evening and in the coming days what our next steps are,” Schwenk said right after the meeting. “Obviously there’s a detailed list of things we need to address in the application if we appeal, so we’ll look at that list and decide from there what we plan to do.”

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news



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