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Two Memphis charter schools get the green light to open — and 8 are turned away for now

From left: Board Chairwoman Teresa Jones, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and board member Scott McCormick
From left: Board Chairwoman Teresa Jones, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and board member Scott McCormick
Micaela Watts

Only two charter operators made the first cut to open new schools in Memphis, according to a Shelby County Schools board resolution set for vote. The board will send eight schools away with feedback they must consider before getting another chance to apply.

The rejected-for-now applications include one from Crosstown High School, whose founders are trying multiple strategies to open a new school in Midtown, and several from operators who already run charter schools in the city.

Board members will announce at their Tuesday night meeting that Memphis Business Academy, Inc. can open two schools in 2017: an elementary and middle school in the growing neighborhood of Hickory Hill. The operator already has elementary and high schools, meaning that students will be able to attend schools that it runs for the entire education.

The board’s role is to act on recommendations from the school district about which charter schools should be allowed to open. The board frequently turns away applicants whose school plans have holes or do not clearly explain why they will be better for students than existing school options. (New charter schools can also fuel the enrollment decline that is causing the district to close its own schools, adding another reason for the board to proceed cautiously).

It’s pretty typical for an application to need revisions after a first review, said Brad Leon, chief of strategy and innovation for the district, who helps oversee charter schools. The board has not made its feedback to schools public.

The eight charter applicants that it denied this week have 30 days to amend their applications based on the board’s feedback. Then the board will have another 30 days to decide whether to approve them.

Charter applicants said they knew being asked to revise their applications was a real possibility.

“We anticipated that we would need to make some changes, ” said Meg Crosby, a Crosstown High board member. “We’re excited to move forward with the process.”

In addition to Crosstown, the following charter applicants must try again if they want their schools to open:

  • Green Dot Public Schools — The Hickory Hill-area high school would be a feeder for Kirby Middle and Wooddale Middle, two of the four schools that Green Dot operates under the state-run Achievement School Distrct.
  • Pathways in Education — The alternative school operator already runs two schools under the ASD that opened in 2014.
  • Scholar Academies — Memphis Scholars Charter School would be a new elementary and middle school in South Memphis. The operator is taking over two Memphis schools this fall through the ASD.
  • Legacy Leadership Academy — The grades 6-12 school was proposed by Tamika Carwell, a former Memphis principal and teacher.
  • Life Preparatory Academy of Excellence — The grades 5-8 school in Hickory Hill would offer twice as much class time in math and reading than many schools, as well as offer classes in “life skills” such as TK.
  • The LeFlore Foundation’s Gentleman and Ladies Academy School would be a math and science-focused elementary school in Cordova.
  • Kaleidoscope Schools — With a focus on on the arts, the Kaleidoscope School of Memphis would serve grades 6-8 and be located near the South Main Arts District.
  • Glory Tabernacle Christian Church — The Academy All Girls Charter elementary school would be based in northeast or midtown Memphis and emphasize reading.
  • Artesian Schools Inc. — Southwest Early College High School would operate in Frayser or Raleigh and seek to develop students who are the first in their families to attend college.
  • Gateway University High School — The proposed downtown high school would focus on computer science.

Chalkbeat reporters Micaela Watts and Laura Faith Kebede contributed to this report.

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