Struggling school not ready to give up charter

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 10:45pm

The principal of embattled Nashville Global Academy isn’t surrendering the school’s charter just yet.

“You’re talking to somebody who grew up as an athlete, who loves motivational stories,” Nashville Global Academy Principal Lou Riley said. “It’s not over until there’s zero on the clock.”

In this case, zero stands for June 30, the deadline Metro Nashville Public Schools has given the charter school to clear a $149,000 debt, money it owes the school district.

After learning of the financial situation, Alan Coverstone, the director of the district’s charter and private schools, said Tuesday he’s asked leaders of Nashville Global Academy to relinquish its charter, which would effectively shut down the one-year-old school. If they don’t surrender the charter, then Coverstone said he would recommend the school board revoke the charter.

Riley, who acknowledged he’s “realistic” on the situation and potential future of the school, wouldn’t elaborate on whether the school is actively trying to raise money but said a few board members are “working on possibilities.”

Ultimately, Riley said the decision to surrender the school’s charter would be made not by him, but Nashville Global Academy’s board of directors. He didn’t know when the board would meet next, but suggested a meeting could be imminent.

“We want to exhaust any last-minute options we have for solutions because even if we do surrender the charter there’s still a bill of $149,000,” Riley said. “We definitely want to act on what’s best for the children, first of all, and then obviously our teachers, who stand a chance to not be compensated this summer.

“This is the first time this has ever happened in Nashville with any charter school, so there’s no blueprint or something by which to model how to respond,” he said.

Asked how the school arrived at its current financial decision, Riley said, “There was a gross mismanagement of funds.”

Shutting down the school would leave 155 students looking for a new school. Coverstone said parents of affected students would be contacted immediately and would be given their new school options during the week of July 6. They would have until July 31 to make a decision.