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Memphis Catholic schools and three other applicants one step closer to becoming charters

This former Catholic school in Binghampton is one of six that will open as a charter school later this month.
This private Catholic school in Binghampton is one of six that New Day Schools wants to convert into a charter school.
Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat

Memphis could be home to nine more charter schools next fall, which would bring the district to 63 charter schools in total.

Ten hopefuls submitted applications in April to Shelby County Schools to open 18 charter schools, and all were told to amend their applications based on district feedback.

Nine potential charter schools have been approved by the district to open in fall 2019, while five charter applications were denied. The school board is scheduled to vote on Wednesday to confirm or reject the district’s recommendations.

If the district school board votes on Wednesday to confirm the rejections, the charter operators can appeal to the State Board of Education. If the state board chooses to overrule Shelby County Schools, it will be the third time in state history.

Approved:

  • New Day Schools – managed by a new organization led by Christian Brothers University President John Smarrelli – would convert six of the soon-to-be former Jubilee Catholic Schools to charters schools. That’s down from nine in its original application.
  • Aster College Prep would open a college preparatory school for fifth- through eighth-graders in Orange Mound. It would be led by Teshanda Middleton, a fellow with Building Excellent Schools, a national charter school incubator.
  • Freedom Preparatory Academy would open its sixth school as a K-8 college preparatory campus in Sherwood Forest. Brad Leon, the district’s chief of strategy and performance management, said “part of the reason we thought they were ready for another school is because their track record is incredibly strong.”
  • Memphis Merit Academy would serve kindergartners through eighth-graders in south and southeast Memphis. The school would be led by Lakenna Booker, a Building Excellent Schools fellow who formerly worked in Shelby County Schools, KIPP Memphis, and Gestalt Community Schools.

Denied:

  • Aspire Public Schools wanted to open Aspire Coleman Middle School in Raleigh to “distinguish” the charter’s existing middle school program from its elementary. The application harkened back to a tiff between Shelby County Schools and the state Department of Education over Aspire’s legal ability to add grade levels to its state turnaround school.
  • Capstone Education Group sought to open its third school in Memphis, but it would have been the first under Shelby County Schools. Its two schools are operated by the state-run Achievement School District, which has taken over about two dozen city schools and handed them over to charters.
  • Green Dot Public Schools wanted to open a K-8 school in Whitehaven as a feeder to Fairley High School, a charter school overseen by the state. The California-based charter organization operates four schools under the state.
  • Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering (MASE), the city’s first charter school, sought to open an elementary school focused on science, technology, engineering, and math.
  • Blueprint Adovah is a new charter organization that wanted to open a projects-based learning high school in South City.

Harvest International Academy chose not to resubmit its application for its first Memphis school in Parkway Village. New Day Schools reduced its request from nine to six schools. That cut out the Whitehaven, South Memphis and downtown campuses, and retained the schools in Berclair, Binghampton, Frayser, Hickory Hill, Midtown, and Orange Mound.

Leon told reporters on Thursday that if the charter operators already had schools, the district emphasized past performance. Capstone, Aspire and Green Dot schools weren’t scoring well enough based on the district’s performance framework to merit growth, he said.

“Like with Aspire and Capstone, Green Dot’s overall performance record we thought didn’t justify another school at this time,” Leon said.

View the district’s presentation for approvals and rejections below. Scoring rubrics and detailed recommendations are available on the board website.

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