School board bans speakers from re-vote on charter school

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

Well, this looks interesting.

Folks who oppose an all-boys charter school operated with public funds by folks from Chattanooga are holding a sidewalk press conference at 4 p.m. today (4/27/23) prior to a called meeting of the Knox County school board. The parents and educators will urge the board to reject the proposed charter.

The board will meet at 5 p.m. at Summer Place Building, 500 W. Summit Hill Dr., the school system’s new headquarters. The board is not offering public forum during the meeting.

Chattanooga Preparatory School’s proposal failed to win majority approval at the April 6 board meeting, failing 4-4 with member Susan Horn absent.

Central to this outcome were claims of inaccurate data in its application, fading support among community members, and dishonest presentation of support from community organizations, wrote Adam Hughes, speaking for SOCM, the group organizing the press conference.

Board member Daniel Watson says: “Those who are coming from outside a community cannot come up with the best solution for a community itself, because solutions have to be contextualized… I believe over the last 18 months you’ve been in the community you’ve actually lost support.” 

And board member John Butler called the proposed school “a white takeover process that is affecting existing public schools.”

The charter also has drawn opposition from NAACP Knoxville president Sam Brown and from retired teacher Candice Bannister.

Bannister said: “I’m not a fan of charter schools, but I know that state law requires a concrete reason for the board to deny an application. I even thought their initial presentation to the Knox County charter committee was impressive. However, once we started digging deeper, clear issues emerged with this application.

The number of low-income students they serve in Chattanooga was much smaller than they initially claimed. They reported a lot of community support in Knox County, but almost everyone from our community who showed up at the board meeting spoke against their application. Many of the organizations and individuals they represented as community support turned out not to have endorsed their application.

When these mistakes were pointed out, the administration of the proposed school refused to withdraw their application in order to correct them. In my classroom, a student who turned in a paper with mistakes would not be getting top marks. Why aren’t we holding the people who want to run a school to the same standard?

At the board meeting and work session in early April, board members and Knox County residents raised serious concerns about the application. Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM) compiled some of these statements in a series of two brief videos focused on community opposition to the school and educational equity and Title IX concerns.

Adam Hughes of SOCM contributed information for this report.

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