Great Hearts responds to Metro's diversity concerns in new letter

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 3:58pm

Two weeks after the Metro school board rejected its state-ordered charter application, Great Hearts Academies officials submitted a 46-page document to the board Monday they insist addresses three areas that are contingent for approval.

But whether the application — and the newly submitted materials — satisfies the nine-member school board won’t become clear until Sept. 11 when it reconsiders Great Hearts’ proposal.

In defying a state order to approve the Phoenix-based charter organization’s plan for a West Nashville charter school on Aug. 14, Metro school board members argued they still hadn’t seen how Great Hearts would address three contingencies required by the Tennessee Board of Education: that Great Hearts hire licensed teachers, receive authorization for just one school initially instead of five, and that it adopt a diversity plan that “mirrors” Metro’s diversity plan for choice schools.

In a letter addressed to Director of Schools Jesse Register and the Metro school board, Great Hearts CEO Dan Scoggin and President Peter Bezanson say Metro officials had told them addressing these contingencies in additional materials prior to the Aug. 14 board meeting wasn’t a prerequisite.

“We were informed previously by MNPS staff that there was no need for Great Hearts to submit further materials, as the MNPS board would simply approve Great Hearts application subject to those contingencies, and then the contingencies would then be part of the charter contract,” Scoggin and Bezanson wrote.

Nevertheless, the letter goes on to supply Register and the board with the charter group’s attempt to ease these contingency concerns “as another expression of Great Hearts commitment.”

On teachers, Great Hearts officials say: “Great Hearts will employ licensed teachers insofar and for so long as required by law.”

Addressing its number of schools, the letter reaffirms Great Hearts’ long-term plan is to open five, but is seeking authorization for only one during the current cycle: “Great Hearts understands that the state board instructions to MNPS require MNPS to approve and authorize a charter school for only one school in this application cycle ... .”

But the final and most debated contingency — regarding diversity — is likely more open to interpretation from the school board, which has expressed fears that the proposed Nashville charter school would serve a predominantly white, affluent student population.

In its letter, Great Hearts points to the diversity plan it submitted to Metro in June on appeal in an amended application prior to its second rejection. “Great Hearts plan meets or exceeds the plan that MNPS utilizes for its own schools of choice,” the letter reads.

In the letter, Great Hearts officials allude to “incorrect statements” about its diversity plan and the district’s diversity plan for its own choice schools. It outlines Great Hearts’ diversity plan in bullet-form:

  • Great Hearts will widely publicize the nature and mission of the school by posting notices in public spaces throughout the Nashville region.
  • Great Hearts will hold informational meetings throughout the metropolitan area at community centers, churches, preschools, and housing developments — including those already held in North Nashville, West Nashville, East Nashville and Antioch.
  • Great Hearts, as expressly required of all charter schools by state law, will be open enrollment with no admissions criteria, and if oversubscribed, enrollment will be determined by blind, random lottery performed by an independent accounting firm or by an entity approved by the state board of education.
  • Great Hearts will use intentional marketing to “traditionally underserved students.”
  • Great Hearts will issue free MTA bus passes to all students who qualify as economically disadvantaged.
  • Great Hearts has committed to a multi-year plan to provide busing to certain areas

In the letter, Scoggin and Bezanson ask Metro school officials to inform them if they feel the new information does not “completely satisfy” the state board’s instructions. They go on to express “disappointment and concern” over Metro’s handling of its charter application.

GreatHeartsLettertoMNPS.pdf7.64 MB

10 Comments on this post:

By: Rasputin72 on 8/28/12 at 2:34

I have no interest whatsoever in Great Hearts Academy or legislated diversity. I like for water and people to seek their own level.

By: pswindle on 8/28/12 at 3:16

Great Hearts will not give up because they know that they can come in and get a big chunk of Metro's money. Did you notice how they explained about hiring licensed teachers? Sorta hanging out there.

By: Djc on 8/28/12 at 8:40

GHA said they would hire licensed teachers. What more is hanging out there?

By: Left-of-Local on 8/29/12 at 9:34

ABOUT TIME. They should have made a better application in the first place. And the curmudgeons who have finally shuffled off the School Board coil should have been less stubborn relics and pushed this decision off to their much more capable successors.

Now the new board can show those idiots no longer with them how it should have been done, and start righting the ship.

By: Vuenbelvue on 8/29/12 at 7:15

Exactly how much, in simple Profit terms do these "charter schools" anticipate making? We know that this is the amount left after expenses are paid. Are they making 10%? 15%? 50%? Does the Davidson County Taxpayer pay for the building, upkeep, crossing guards, pensions? Is it that lucrative or do these "charter schools" do this because they want to help American and the Foreign nationals in these schools get the best education possible in "Grattis" or in a non-profit way? Do they get audited financially during the school year at the school they are managing?

pswindle is right "On teachers, Great Hearts officials say: “Great Hearts will employ licensed teachers insofar and for so long as required by law.” Are the charter school groups lobbying to allow them to use non licensed teachers? Will they, like HCA, try to bring Filipina's in to nurse- teach?

By: radiyojo on 8/29/12 at 8:03

Charter schools are a waste of taxpayers' money. They have more overhead than public schools.

By: Specter47 on 8/29/12 at 10:11

Prove it, radiyojo... Where is your data? You are as full of it as those people who don't want white kids to have equal access to all forms of education in Nashville.

By: Specter47 on 8/29/12 at 10:11

Prove it, radiyojo... Where is your data? You are as full of it as those people who don't want white kids to have equal access to all forms of education in Nashville.

By: Djc on 8/30/12 at 7:36

So interesting to see so many make false comments without any data to back it up....

By: Specter47 on 8/30/12 at 4:22 are so right...typical liberal wacko way of doing things...make up outrageous claims and present them as fact.