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JMCSS Board denies ACE application appeal

Tuesday’s special called Jackson-Madison County School Board meeting resulted in the denial of the charter application denial for American Classical Education.

JMCSS Attorney Dale Thomas read a 73-paragraph resolution highlighting the reasons the charter review committee recommended the denial, and the board voted 5-1 in favor of the denial. Harvey Walden was the dissenting opinion.

The meeting started with public comments with five people speaking in favor of the denial and three people speaking in favor of ACE.

One person, former board member Dave Bratcher who now works as the West Tennessee director for YMCA, reminded everyone on both sides of the issue that the state has mandated how the application is to be graded, and politics and preferences shouldn’t be a part of the equation.

The charter review team then presented its reason for recommending denying the appeal, stating that there were a number of deficiencies in the plans in every area of the application.

It was after that when JMCSS Superintendent Marlon King spoke.

“I think everyone on this board and in this administration are all for choices in our school system and giving our parents and students different choices,” King said. “And I think we’ve done that in the past three years.

“We’re one of the few districts in the state with open enrollment, and the reason for that is so that no parent or student feels like they’re ‘stuck’ anywhere. If they don’t feel like they’re getting the education that’s right for them, they have options right here in our school system.”

King mentioned different schools such as Madison, Early College High and JASA as evidence of those different choices in addition to coming options like the Innovation Center in the works.

“So when some refer to our school system as something that students can get ‘stuck’ in and then turn around and talk about how they want to partner with us, I can’t help but wonder how those two statements can both happen at the same time,” King said. “And a lot of the things getting thrown around about our district need to be brought within context.

“You like to talk about how we have three schools on the priority list, but you don’t talk about how we had five schools on the priority list three years ago and two have come off and the other three are on their way there.”

After King’s statement, Thomas then read the resolution that included 73 reasons the charter review committee recommended denying the appeal. Many of those reasons hinged on the fact that the application didn’t specify a location for the school, which would have an effect on transportation costs and other plans.

So when the lack of location was seen as a deficiency, that cause other items to be deficient as well in planning, budgeting and operations.

There were also a number of deficiencies in academic planning because many of the curricula were brands not recognized by the state department of education, such as Singapore Math.

“And it wasn’t just the lack of location that was a problem,” said board member Jason Compton after the meeting. “There was no viable indication that anyone from ACE had talked to anyone from East Jackson about what they wanted or what they felt the students of East Jackson needed.

“You heard Andre Darnell say – who represents that district – that if there had been any communication between ACE and the people of East Jackson, he heard nothing from that. And I’d like to think he would’ve been made aware by someone.”

After Thomas read the resolution, Walden mentioned a few things he found puzzling about the committee’s recommendation to the board including the fact that ACE officials who’d spoken with the committee told them that the curriculum they plan to use with the school had been given an approval at the state level at other schools. So that gave them a precedent that they could use that same curriculum in Madison County.

One item the committee cited as a deficiency was a budget of $12,000 for transportation each year. Walden said the official who’d been questioned about that said the budget was $120,000, but for some reason – misunderstanding or miscommunication – that number was decreased by 90 percent.

“I’m confident that everyone on this board and in this administration has the best interests at the students at heart, even if we disagree on the issues of how we get to their best interests,” Walden said. “But I think the work we do depends highly on making sure we get the best possible information we can get.

“And I think in this case, we haven’t gotten that from the committee.”

Now that the appeal has been denied, ACE has 10 days to file an appeal. That appeal would be heard by the state charter school commission, and once the commission receives that appeal, that hearing will happen in front of ACE and the school system within 75 days.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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