Charter school operators have applied to open 11 schools under Shelby County Schools in the fall of 2020, but only four operators plan to open where the district says they’re needed.
Last year, applicants sought to open 18 schools and 16 the year before that.
The district’s new analysis on where charter schools are most needed was based on the number of students in various Memphis neighborhoods and the school seats available for them. The applicants, however, would make a small dent in what the district says is a need for 45,000 “high-quality” seats as measured by the district’s report card, now in its second year, that compares state test scores, academic growth, suspension rates, and college readiness.
Four of the applicants already operate schools in Tennessee’s largest school district. Five applications are repeats of previous attempts to open schools that were rejected by the school board. One other applicant wants to add a grade to its existing charter school.
Shelby County Schools currently oversees 54 charter schools and approved nine to open in the fall. Current charter schools make up about 16,000 students, or 15 percent of the district’s population of approximately 109,000 students.
For the third year in a row, Green Dot Tennessee, which serves about 2,000 students in five schools under the state-run Achievement School District and the State Board of Education, seeks to open its first school under the local district. Two other charter schools are also trying to open under Shelby County Schools for the third time.
The district’s new analysis compared academic performance of schools in each region of the city and how much capacity each has for more students. The only neighborhoods that needed more seats were Binghampton, White Station, Cordova, and Gray’s Creek. Collectively, the district hopes schools will add about 1,500 more spots for students. The report said all other regions were “oversaturated” with schools, a longtime concern of school board members.
The district is working to cement these kinds of recommendations in policy for what the district desires from aspiring charter operators, but that work is ongoing. Applications will not be scored based on the analysis, Shelby County Schools officials said in a statement.
“However, the information presented by applicants will be provided to the board as additional data to supplement the recommendation,” the statement said.
For the second year, district leaders are accepting public comments on the applications through April 30. The school board is slated to have its first vote on the applications at its June 25 meeting. Applicants will then have 30 days to revise their applications before a final school board vote in August:
- Arrow Academy of Excellence is seeking to add fourth grade to its existing elementary school in Orange Mound, which opened in 2013.
- Beacon College Preparatory seeks to open an elementary school in Raleigh led by Joseph Bolduc, a Teach for America alum and a fellow with Building Excellent Schools.
- Encore Education Network, Inc. seeks to open an elementary school in Orange Mound focused on science, technology, engineering, and math.
- The Destiny House, led by LaShundra Richmond, a former pastor and organizer with Black Alliance for Educational Options, seeks to open an all-girls middle school downtown called Rich ED Academy of Leaders, or REAL. This is the organization’s second attempt to open the school after being rejected by the school board and the state board. Leaders would recruit girls from North Memphis, Uptown, and South Memphis. But the school would not open until 2021 as Richmond and the proposed head of school Lytania Black complete a fellowship with High Tech High, a charter school network in California. The program focuses on project-based learning, where students take fewer tests and complete several projects based on real-world situations to demonstrate their knowledge.
- Freedom Preparatory Academy seeks to open its sixth school, but for the first time would branch out to Binghampton with a K-8 school. The charter operator cited Shelby County Schools’ analysis stating the neighborhood in the heart of Memphis needed more capacity and high-quality schools.
- Glory Community Development Corporation seeks to open an all-girls elementary school in Midtown called “THE” Academy All Girls Charter School led by Clarice Loggins, a Shelby County Schools teacher. The school board has rejected Loggins’ application for this school twice before, and the state board upheld the decision when Loggins appealed in 2017.
- Green Dot Public Schools seeks to open its first elementary school as a K-8 school in Whitehaven that would also be a feeder school to Fairley and Hillcrest high schools, two of Green Dot’s schools overseen by the state. The California-based charter organization chose not to appeal the Memphis board’s decision last year to reject a similar application.
- The LeFlore Foundation is a repeat applicant seeking to open The Gentlemen and Ladies STEM Academy in Cordova as a K-8 school. The school board rejected the foundation’s application in 2016 and 2017, but the foundation did not appeal to the state board.
- Memphis Business Academy seeks to open a high school in Hickory Hill, which would be the charter operator’s seventh school and second high school.
- Metamorphoses, Inc. seeks to open a high school in Cordova focused on career and technical education providing licensing and certification in industries including architectural and design engineering, computer science and programming, automotive technology, and pre-medicine.
- Read Foundation, which currently operates Memphis School of Excellence, seeks to open its second set of schools, an elementary and 6-12 school in Cordova focused on science, technology, engineering, and math. The organization said it wants to help alleviate “over-enrollment” in Cordova schools. Their application to open three schools in Raleigh was rejected in 2017 and they did not appeal.
You can read the full applications below: