Intent to bring charter school to Jackson-Madison Co. met with opposition at public hearing

JACKSON, Tenn. — A new option for education may be heading to Madison County, but is being met with opposition.

The State Charter Commission held a public hearing with the Jackson-Madison County Board of Education and representatives with the American Classical Academy Madison Charter School on why the charter should come to the county.

The Jackson-Madison County Board of Education previously denied the charter’s application. The board’s reasoning was a lack of location for the future school, and no local representation on the charter’s board.

“No compelling evidence for waiver request that would align to student achievement, no local Madison County representation on the Charter Board and lacking a contingency plan to meet financial needs in the early years,” said Dr. Vivian Williams, Deputy Superintendent for the Jackson-Madison County School System.

The board also argued that the charter presented no evidence for supporting all students or how they would address learning loss.

“Are we willing to add a charter school with an academic plan that lacks key elements of public school that serves all students?” Dr. Williams asked. “Including the first population in an inclusive environment.”

Representatives with ACA announced at the hearing that a location has been obtained, and they do have a diverse curriculum that is built for success.

“They are asking for a chance, for an opportunity, for a choice,” said American Classical Education CEO Joel Schellhammer. “A way to have some option in this community. We are confident that we will provide a first class public classical charter school for all families and all students in this community.”

The commission heard from 15 community members on their opinions regarding the charter. The majority came to support the charter.

County resident Mary Bowen says she thinks there should be more educational options.

“We have been told over and over again for my special needs family that you can either find another school or find some medication,” Bowen said. “Charter comes in and says that is what we work with. What are the answers that we can give individual students that makes sense for them?”

United Way President/CEO Matt Marshall came to support the school district, and says he sees the progress of the district and stands by them.

“That we support our system. It is not perfect by any means, but we are making some really big positive advancements under Dr. King’s leadership and under this administration,” Marshall said. “Making some advances we have not seen in a long time. I really would hate to see that undercut.”

Following the hearing on Thursday, American Classical Education board member Dolores Gresham released the following statement:

“American Classical Academy is so pleased by the overwhelming support showed today for our application for a free public charter school in Madison County. The eloquence of the many parents and grandparents who expressed the struggles and challenges they have faced finding the right educational options in a district that currently offers no choice, spoke to everyone in the room. Families’ voices were overwhelmingly heard today speaking in favor of a classical public charter school – including the importance of a classical curriculum. Families are seeking out this option as they believe it will best serve their kids’ educational needs. We are confident that the Commission heard what the vast majority of the citizens of Madison County want: to approve this public charter school and finally bring an equitable choice for families in the community.”

The final approval hearing will be held October 5 in Nashville. If you would like to voice your opinion on the charter’s approval, you have until Thursday, September 22 to send them in. Click here for more information.

For more news in the Jackson area, click here.

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