HomeNewsOPINION: Why didn’t ACE put more effort into their application appeal?

OPINION: Why didn’t ACE put more effort into their application appeal?

On April 28, the Jackson-Madison County School Board voted to deny American Classical Education the opportunity to establish a publicly funded charter school in Madison County.

On Tuesday, the appeal was denied.

And I’m wondering if ACE leadership is perfectly fine with that. That would be the only reason to explain why it appears as if they didn’t put much effort into their appeal.

Here’s the evidence of that: At the April 28 meeting, JMCSS Attorney Dale Thomas read a resolution that listed 51 reasons why the application was recommended to be denied. Three months later, those 51 reasons multiplied to 73.

Some on the charter review committee and ad hoc committee publicly questioned ACE’s methodology in submitting their application since it was obvious someone copied and pasted the application for Madison County from an application for the school they wanted to establish in Montgomery County (Clarksville).

But forget about that. I’m not worried about syntax issues (although while I’m willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt on the original application that maybe someone forgot to hit the “save” button before sending the application or something like that).

My concern is fundamental reasons why the application was denied in April that were repeated in July.

One foundational element to ACE’s application is being able to pinpoint a location for the school.

ACE Principal Phil Schwenk has been the main one communicating with JMCSS Superintendent Marlon King and had a conversation with King earlier this year that indicated a possible conversation about turning over Jackson Careers and Technology facility over to ACE to house their school to possibly help the students of East Jackson.

Other than that, nothing has been officially said about a location, other than ACE saying they wanted to put a school in East Jackson.

But without a solid location in the plant, that knocks out a number of other smaller parts of the plan related to transportation and other things affected by location.

Then there were a few other things. Honestly, as Thomas read the 73-paragraph resolution giving the reasons to deny the application, I was wondering why we were even sitting there until board member Harvey Walden pointed out that May 28 (the official deadline for the appeal which is 30 days after the appeal was denied) was on the Sunday of Memorial Day so ACE had until May 30 (the day they submitted their appeal) to get it in.

But why wait until the absolute last minute that’s technically past the official last minute?

And if you’re going to appeal, why not fix the 51 things that were pointed out instead of creating 22 more things for them to point out three months later?

And also, you had three extra months to figure all this out. Thomas’ resolution read should’ve only been a handful of things, none of which should be repeats from the first time around.

Send a team of people to East Jackson to 1) find out where East Jackson is and what schools are there and what the people of East Jackson want and 2) come up with more solid answers to important questions like funding certain aspects of education than “we’ll hopefully get a waiver for that.”

Regarding location, board member Jason Compton said he didn’t expect them to go out and buy a building with the hope of getting approved by the board, which is understandable. But the way the real estate market in Jackson is right now, they could’ve paid a high price for a building in 2023, submitted another proposal early 2024 and then if it got denied again, sell that property in 2024 for a little bit of a profit.

But – at the risk of being wrong – it appears to me ACE is OK with this denial.

With this second denial, the next step in the process is for them to appeal again within 10 days. But this appeal doesn’t go to the JMCSS Board. It goes to the state charter commission, who’s appointed by Gov. Bill Lee.

There are plenty of reasons to suspect Lee wants charter schools throughout the state, and I’m not getting into that.

But it does appear he wants them, so there’s reason to believe this charter commission will lean toward approving them no matter what the local bodies in each county say.

So it appears to me that ACE could’ve put more effort into this application than they did, but they knew they didn’t have to.

There will probably be an appeal in the next 10 days. And then within 75 days after that, there will be a hearing in front of the state charter commission.

And it appears ACE is willing to hedge all their bets on that hearing if they want to put a charter school in Madison County next year.

Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at brandon@jacksonpost.news. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.

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