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ACE plans to begin work to start charter school; JMCSS checking legal options

The Tennessee Charter Commission approved by a unanimous vote on Thursday to approve the application by American Classical Education to bring a charter school to Jackson and Madison County.

ACE Vice-President Phillip Schwenk said it’s now on his organization to begin the work of putting a school together.

“We’re quite pleased with the approval by the Commission,” Schwenk said in a phone interview on Friday. “It means now that we can finally begin to go forward in the next steps of what it takes to start a school.”

The head of the school has been determined, a longtime ACE employee Alexandria Spry, who’s been involved in the start of other charter schools in the past with ACE.

Schwenk said he other leaders for ACE will begin to secure a location for the school, which according to their application would be in East Jackson.

This came after a conversation between Schwenk and Jackson-Madison County Schools Superintendent Marlon King in February in which King asked him if he’d be willing to put a school inside the building at either Isaac Lane or Jackson Careers and Technology.

According to Schwenk, he’s open to continuing that conversation with King if he’s open to that, but Schwenk said when he tried to resume that conversation later this year with King that King “pulled back on that.”

For JMCSS, King said in a phone interview Friday morning that the district is exploring other legal options available to them.

“We’re going to have legal counsel from outside the school district and see what we can do,” King said, adding that he plans to have a special called school board meeting so the board members can meet in executive session with that lawyer to determine their options for next steps. “We’re looking at possibilities at filing an injunction or an appeal to have an attorney look at this process and see if how it was carried out was legal.”

The Board’s next scheduled meeting is Oct. 19 after fall break this week, but King said he wants to have that meeting sooner than Oct. 19.

“This is not something we need to wait around on,” King said. “Because the process of how this happened in the hearing [Thursday] and how we were penalized for not being there in person when we did our part in having our voice heard before the Commission voted.”

JMCSS had two options on Thursday for the Commission meeting in Nashville – send a representative to speak to the Commission in which he or she would have a maximum of two minutes to speak or to send a one-page written response to the Commission.

JMCSS opted to send the written response.

Members of the Commission expressed on multiple occasions during the meeting that they wished JMCSS had a representative there so they could ask questions, but Commission Executive Director Tess Stovall told the Commissioners that asking questions isn’t allowed in their meeting rules, so that wouldn’t have been an option.

“That process typically begins in November or December of the year before the school is scheduled to open,” Schwenk said. “And we intend to open in August of 2025, so that means she’ll start in November of next year with advertising and marketing campaigns and getting the word out that we’re hiring.”

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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