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Sara Heyburn Morrison, executive director of the Tennessee State Board of Education

Sara Heyburn Morrison, executive director of the Tennessee State Board of Education

Micaela Watts

Tennessee State Board to decide fate of two proposed Memphis charter schools

The State Board’s top official is siding with Tennessee’s largest district in denying two charter schools that sought to open in Memphis.

The board heard the appeals by The Academy All Girls Charter School and Rich ED Academy of Leaders last month after the Shelby County Schools board turned them down along with nine others. The state board will discuss the recommendation to uphold the local board’s decision tomorrow and vote Friday during its regular quarterly meeting in Knoxville.

The recommendation to side with Shelby County stands in contrast to the state board’s dramatic overruling of the local board last year that resulted in the first charter school authorization by the panel in Memphis. That essentially added another state-run district in the city.

This time Sara Morrison, the executive director of the Tennessee State Board of Education, has recommended denying the appeals. The board is not bound by Morrison’s analysis, but it would be a surprise if the panel deviated from it.

The six-person review committee that reviewed The Academy All Girls Charter School’s application for the state gave it a lower rating than had Shelby County Schools, saying the application did not meet standards in any of the three categories measured: academics, operations and finances.

The main complaints were about curriculum matching the school’s stated mission, a contingency plan if the school did not meet enrollment projections and how the school would support struggling learners. The school was a repeat applicant sponsored by Glory Tabernacle Christian Church and led by Clarice Loggins, a second-grade teacher at Rozelle Elementary School.

“While the sponsor’s desire, passion and dedication to serve female students in the Memphis community is readily apparent and commendable, I agree with SCS that significant concerns remain about the ability of the sponsor to successfully open and operate the proposed school in a manner that will improve academic outcomes for their target population,” Morrison said in her analysis.

The Rich ED Academy of Leaders is a school proposed by LaShundra Richmond, a pastor at Covenant Church Memphis and lead instructor at HopeWorks who has a background in teaching, community organizing and education consulting.

The state review committee handed down a slightly better score for the application, but cited concerns about missing information about the school’s facility, stability of the governing board and professional development for staff. The analysis also said the school had too heavy of a reliance on philanthropic donations.