Metro Schools recommends denial of Great Hearts' amended charter application

Monday, June 25, 2012 at 7:14pm

Metro Director of Schools Jesse Register’s administration has recommended denial of Great Hearts Academies’ amended charter application, delivering another potential blow to the Phoenix-based charter group’s desire for five Nashville charters.

“The original concerns remain,” Alan Coverstone, executive director of Metro schools’ Office of Innovation, told The City Paper Monday. He said concerns are primarily related to diversity questions stemming from its school location and transportation plans –– two areas that Great Hearts’ revised application sought to address.

“We feel like there are enough questions about their ability to replicate with a diverse population and their ability to attract and serve a diverse population that we recommended denial at this time,” Coverstone said.

Leaders of five charter groups separately appealed May 29 Metro school board decisions to deny applications to operate publicly financed, privately led charters in Nashville.

The school board is set to vote on appeals Tuesday.

On Monday, Metro schools’ Office of Innovation recommended approval of two of the five appealing charter groups: KIPP Nashville, hoping to expand to the Whites Creek area, and Purpose Preparatory Academy, a school that has worked with the Tennessee Charter School Incubator.

Along with Great Hearts, Metro’s Office of Innovation recommended the board deny amended applications of Excel Academy and Genesis Transitions.

Metro’s central office and Metro Charter Review Committee had already recommended approval of KIPP, though the board went ahead in May and denied its application. The recommendation to approve Purpose Prep marks a reversal.

The district’s Great Hearts recommendation came even though the charter review committee stated in its recommendation that Great Hearts’ proposal met approval consideration based purely on scoring rubric. The district took note of the discrepancy in its recommendation report.

“The committee’s reassessment of the amended application addressed the details of the rubric which did not allow for full and complete assessment of significant issues related to the best interests of the students, the district and the community, and stops short of an enthusiastic endorsement,” the district’s recommendation report on Great Hearts reads.

“The committee also cited questions that lay beyond its ability to decide,” the report continues. “Full consideration of the resubmitted application leads to the conclusion that the grounds for the initial denial recommendation have not been overcome, despite cosmetic adjustments and significant political pressure.”

Officials of Great Hearts had amended their original charter application to attempt to address diversity concerns, electing to offer “limited busing as a step to build our service footprint across the Metro region.” In addition, officials revealed they are “actively searching” within a 2.9-square-mile area near West End Avenue for a school location. It listed potential options for schools one through five.

But the Office of Innovation’s report cites concerns despite these changes.

“The transportation plan offers a maximum of two buses, each serving one or two bus stops on routes located farther than 15 miles of the school location,” the report reads. “While this will enable some students (depending on applications and enrollment) to attend Great Hearts, it is potentially minimal in its impact because the school is not offering transportation for all.”

17 Comments on this post:

By: mm80 on 6/25/12 at 5:59

Mr. Coverstone,

I am glad you can sleep at night denying the children of metro nashville the same educational opportunity that your two children are getting at USN. It must be nice to have over $40,000 to PAY to get your kids OUT of the public school system. You are a total hypocrite. I have no idea why you are denying THOUSANDS of middle class families the opportunity to provide their children with an education that not only equals but EXCEEDS the academic opportunity you are giving your own children. Until your children sit next to ours in the public schools, keep your opinions to yourself. Your report is completely unprofessional and clearly subjective. If the public schools are "good enough" in your opinion to NOT grant this charter, then please, send your kids to school with ours on august 1st.
and please spare us your claims on a lack of diversity plan. give us a break. your kids are in a school where the tuition exceeds $18,000.

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By: Specter47 on 6/26/12 at 5:56

The worst thing about all this is that Great Hearts has an exemplary record of success. So what's the problem? The school wants to be located in West Nashville! Oh, My God!! The kids who live there may actually have an opportunity that the kids in other parts of the city may not have! Great Hearts wants to let the so called "diversity" take care of itself. Let applicants be allowed or denied entrance to the school on their own merits. Kids from the wealthier families have every right to enjoy all the benefits afforded by public education. They're the biggest financial supporters of public education through their taxes. The reason Metro Schools are failing is because those children are being placed in private schools or moving out of the county, leaving only the many kids who have no incentive and poor parental guidance to attend the classes! Admit it, school board! Admit it, Coverstone! Stop being so damned politically correct and admit the cause of the problem! And then you deny Great Hearts the right to practice successful education to a bunch of rich white kids in West Nashville. That's what you're thinking, all of you. Admit it.

By: timlee on 6/26/12 at 5:59

Timothy Lee
The school board uses words such as diversity, social and economical statues as reasons for denial of Great Hearts. What about the rights of our children is West Nashville. Many families in West Nashville can not afford private schools yet we have no charter schools in our area. Wait we have LEED academy which is not diverse. Drive by the school and you can see that 98% of the children are of one race, not to diversified. How do you get children into the existing charter schools? My children deserve a education just like North and East Nashville, but according to the school board my children deserve less. If you are truly concerned about doing the right thing. Then give all children equal treatment. You go so far with this diversity issue that you automatically place all walls around all social and economic classes. You the school board have now become part of the problem, not the solution. Approve Great Hearts and lets start fixing the problems with our schools and stop making it worse. Your plans are not working. Stop saying we need change and lets start the changing.

By: Specter47 on 6/26/12 at 6:01

Another thought...Isn't Coverstone's "Office of Innovation" an oxymoron? Great Hearts Academy is the very definition of innovation. MNPS wouldn't know innovation if it hit them it the face, Bunch of hypocrites.

By: Specter47 on 6/26/12 at 6:06

Just my point, Tim...great comments. I don't even have children in school anymore, but what I see is ridiculous. And here is the definition of "diversity"... no (or fewer) whites. I'm just elling it like it is. I've heard Metro officials brag about a particular school being "so diverse". Well, I guess so! It was only 22% white. That's pretty diverse, for sure!

By: wasaw on 6/26/12 at 8:31

Let me see if I can understand this situation: Folks who have failed in shaping up our public schools (MNPS), and are in jeapody of losing their own jobs (teachers, director, board members) if they don't improve, are deciding whose plans will work to fix what's broke. Sounds perfectily like the American political way to me.

By: Fbl1963 on 6/26/12 at 8:35

I don’t have children in the Metro schools, but I feel then need to comment on this. I read the letter that Great Hearts’ sent in response to their application denial and I don’t understand why they were denied in the first place. Based on the contents of the letter they pointed out that they followed the guidelines set forth by “board policy or state charter law”. It seems that, in Great Hearts’ rebuttal letter, they hit a nerve when they addressed each reason for denial with a quote from either the board policy, state charter law, or the charter application instructions which showed they had fulfilled the application requirements. The question is what is the Metro schools’ Office of Innovation afraid of? Are they afraid that someone from the outside will come in and provide the children of Nashville a quality education which is something that Metro schools are failing to do?

By: Toosmart4owngood on 6/26/12 at 9:01

There is much emotion tied to school issues. The problem with Great Hearts is that basically it will be a "charter" school for the priviledged. The parents who want it want that. Admit it. The problem is stealing funds from public schools to create an oasis of wealth using public money makes the poor even poorer. The way to improve our public schools is to stop pulling the top kids out of them. I say this as a mom with 3 kids in public schools. We have to work within the system to improve it. Running to surrounding counties or private school is an option that EVERY parent should have. What they should NOT have is the ability to create a "private" school under the guise of being a charter and use PUBLIC money to do this. Parents, the school board is right on this one. Work within the system, don't try to use a loophole to make poor children even more poor while your kids go to public funded private schools. It is wrong. It is not the intent of the law and it shouldn't happen.

By: zebrotha on 6/26/12 at 9:13

This isn’t news, this is American history, in which the colors of the students in the classrooms are now and have always been more important than academic accomplishment. “Educating” children to demand perpetual politically imposed, politically profitable racial favoritism with America’s perpetual “good race/bad race” stereotypes of bogus “racial identities” is both the modern and historical “core” of American education, albeit the colors of people stereotyped as “the good race” or “the bad race,” change from time to time.

One wonders when America’s schools will ever figure out that Democrat politicians _do_ not_ care_ what_ color_ is_ favored, but simply depend upon “educators” substituting the politically correct “good race/bad race” stereotypes du jour of “racial identities” for the reality of individual identity, to produce a constituency of perpetual racial hostility demanding the Democrat Party’s successful election platform of perpetually profitable racial favoritism. (Not that the so called Republican “opposition” Party has any problem with the money and power invested in every politician by racial favoritism. )

Will American educators ever use racism’s remedy of teaching each child, that every single person’s positive social value is _exclusively_ dependent on their cooperative personal actions, a reality representing perspective that renders color differences completely irrelevant, thereby, and finally, producing cooperative social harmony instead of perpetual racial animosity. No, not with school boards like this one, using racist color judgments to misrepresent racial favoritism as synonymous with “equality;” ... and just when did American school boards ever do anything but precisely that...never.

By: mm80 on 6/26/12 at 9:26

By: paulalanjones on 6/26/12 at 10:34

I don't think diversity will sort itself out in the way Great Hearts suggests. I think Great Hearts should place their schools in the area with the greatest need. Place the schools in poorer districts and let the wealthier, privileged families fight to get their kids into schools that are in worse neighborhoods. You can't place schools in areas of greater wealth where poorer families with less access to reliable transportation have make a greater effort. Create an opportunity where the least privileged are required to make the least effort and the most privileged make the most effort-- that seems more fair to me. I support the rejection of Great Hearts based on their current proposal, KIPP however, I think is a different story. They are great at placing their schools in the appropriate areas and adding students of low privilege. Ultimately, I don't have a problem with a charter school providing an educational experience equal to a private school for the cost of public education, but let's call it what it is, an opportunity of privilege-- diversity is not a priority unless it is a deliberately accommodated one. Great Hearts is a great charter option, but it isn't one that directly addresses the greatest needs of failing schools in our State. Let's ensure we are lifting the bottom before we start lifting the top.

By: timlee on 6/26/12 at 10:42

Timothy Lee
After speaking to several school board members, I have concluded that only 2 of the 4 spoken with are willing to engage in conversation regarding Great Hearts. Mrs Porter and Mr Kindall are class acts and are taking this issue serious. Mr North and Dr Brannon listened but would not engage in any conversation. This tells me that they don't care what we think. Mr North spouts garbage out of his mouth saying he wants better charter schools, not settle for mediocre and he is in favor of charter schools that excel. If you honestly believe what you said last month then you have no reason to reject Great Hearts. I will apologize to Mr North if he is actually honest and votes for Great Hearts tonight. As for the other 5 members, they could not be bothered to return phone calls. Great leaders!

Toosmart (LOL) Privileged kids, give me a break. Most kids that are going to private schools will stay in them regardless of the charter school. Private schools have heritage with those that have graduated and the parents will continue to send kids to them. The only thing scary about charter schools, is the teachers are held accountable to how and what they teach. I pay taxes in this city so why can't I decide on where my children go. Believe me I know better for my children than you or metro government ever will.

By: timlee on 6/26/12 at 10:54

Timothy Lee
So, it is OK to discriminate against children whose parents make more money than you. Great values to teach children. Some people in this argument are just hypocrites. They think it is not right for a school to be in West Nashville because it is stero-typed as affluent(which most of us are not), they don't deserve the same opportunity as North or East Nashville. WOW, people maybe that is what is wrong. Parents should stop pointing fingers and take responsibility. I know I will find a way to get my children a good education even if it means leaving this county because private school is not affordable for us. So the cycle continues. When will people start opening their minds and explore different options. Great Hearts wants to place 5 schools in Nashville. Everyone will have the same opportunity with the lottery.

By: thereitis on 6/26/12 at 12:07

Very solid, empassioned points made. For those worried about Great Hearts not really being a charter school but code word for "elite private school." I sincerely hope the test results are just like the elite private schools, it means a top notch education. Ask your self this, do you really see parents taking their kids out of Montgomery Bell Academy, Harpeth Hall or University School of Nashville to enroll them in Great Hearts? I think there is almost no chance of this happening.

In fact, I think if We The People really knew all the discussions going on behind the scenes we would learn that MBA, Harpeth Hall and USN have privately lobbied to kill Great Hearts. Maybe you are onto something and these elite private schools are worried Great Hearts proves you can have a briliant public education and not pay $20k a year for it. If so, wouldn't this be the very reason we should approve it?

I don't know. I am just deeply frustrated by this. When the review committee reads the application and says it is ready to serve students, and the politicians line up junk to say no....this is not about kids, this is about adult politics.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I don't think we'll ever know what really happened, just more of the same. Sad, sad day for Nashville and Tennessee. Does the Governor even care? He created the open enrollment law.

By: Toosmart4owngood on 6/26/12 at 12:17

Thereitis-what is wrong with your current school? If it is college attendance we all know that parents drive that more than the school does. If you want your kid to go to college then teach him that. Why abandon public schools?

By: Specter47 on 6/26/12 at 3:30

I keep hearing the same thing from the bleeding hearts out there about this school being a school for the privileged. "The greatest needs must be met." "Locate the school in the poorer areas." Same old stuff! My question the kids from the "better" neighborhoods have a right to attend an excellent public school for free? ABSOLUTELY! If taxpayers fund schools, then any child should be able to attend any school, even if their parents are very wealthy. There will come a day when the government (inlcuding schools) will determine whether or not you make too much money and your kids will not be able to go to public school.