charter expansion

See who wants to open a charter school in Memphis in 2019

PHOTO: Micaela Watts
A student at work at Freedom Preparatory Academy in Memphis.

Fewer applicants are vying to open charter schools in Memphis and one of them will seek to convert religious schools to publicly funded charters.

Ten charter organizations applied to Shelby County Schools ahead of the April 2 deadline to open 18 schools in 2019. That’s down from 14 applicants last year, and the school board only approved three.

The most prominent among this year’s applications are nine schools that would be managed by a new organization led by Christian Brothers University president John Smarrelli. New Day Schools would convert the sites of private Catholic schools into charters. If approved, it would be the first such conversion in Memphis and represent a new strategy to obtain public money after private school tuition vouchers failed to be approved in the state legislature. Eight schools would be kindergarten through eighth grade, and one would be seventh through 12th grade.

Five of the applicants already run schools in Memphis, either under Shelby County Schools or the state. The others would be opening their first charter school. (See the bottom of this story for a map of proposed neighborhoods.)

New this year are online access early in the approval process and a public comment period through April 27. You can access all charter applications here.

Shelby County Schools has the most charter schools in Tennessee, which are publicly funded schools that are privately managed by a board of directors. The Memphis district now has 51 charters that educate about 15,000, or 14 percent, of its students.

This year is the second under a more rigorous application process since Shelby County Schools doubled the size of its charter office to beef up monitoring.

These applicants will learn by the end of August whether they’ll get the green light from Shelby County’s school board:

  • Aspire Public Schools seeks to open Aspire Coleman Middle School in Raleigh to explicitly “distinguish” the charter’s existing middle school program from its elementary. The application harkens back to a tiff between Shelby County Schools and the state Department of Education over the charter’s legal ability to add grades to its state turnaround school. The new school, if approved, would allow the state to create a new school that would be under local oversight.
  • Aster College Prep seeks to open a fifth-through-eighth-grade college preparatory school in Orange Mound. It would be led by Teshanda Middleton, a fellow with Building Excellent Schools, a national charter school incubator.
  • Blueprint Adovah is a new charter organization and seeks to open a projects-based learning high school in South City.
  • Capstone Education Group seeks to open its third school in Memphis, but it would be the first under Shelby County Schools. Its two schools are under the state-run Achievement School District, which has taken over about two dozen city schools and handed them over to charters. The group did not specify which neighborhood the proposed middle school would be located in but noted it would focus on college preparatory courses.
  • Freedom Preparatory Academy seeks to open its sixth school as a K-8 college preparatory campus in Sherwood Forest.
  • Green Dot Public Schools seeks to open a K-8 school in Whitehaven as a feeder school to Fairley High School, a charter overseen by the state. The California-based charter organization operates four schools under the state. One of them was authorized by the state Board of Education, the first in the state after Shelby County Schools denied their application in 2016.
  • Harvest International Academy seeks to open its first Memphis school in Parkway Village, where teachers would facilitate discussion and learning instead of lecturing. They would also include more cultural content that is relevant to their students. The elementary school would be led by Denise Wilson, a teacher with Shelby County Schools.
  • Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering (MASE), the city’s first charter school, seeks to open an elementary school focused on science, technology, engineering and math.
  • Memphis Merit Academy would serve K-8 grade students 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, according to her LinkedIn profile.
  • New Day Schools, operated by Christian Brothers University president Smarrelli, hopes to convert nine campuses of the soon-to-be former Jubilee Catholic Schools Network in Whitehaven, South Memphis, Orange Mound, Midtown, Hickory Hill, Frayser, Downtown, Binghampton, and Berclair. None of the schools would keep their religious teachings.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.