Rutherford council rejects charter school linked to Hillsdale College
Springs Empower Academy Gains Charter School Project Approval
Jared McCLeod, Executive Director of Springs Empower Academy, talks about the Montessori charter school plan that has been approved for Rutherford County.
Scott Broden, Murfreesboro Daily Newspaper
A charter school plan for Rutherford County was approved on Monday, but the board rejected the other Hillsdale College-related candidate.
The Rutherford County School Board voted 6 to 1 against the charter school plan of the American Classical Academy, which submitted a application with Michigan-based Hillsdale College mentioned about 450 times.
The board voted 5-2 in favor of California-based Springs Public Schools Tennessee’s plan to open Empower Academy. The charter school will operate independently of the board, but will use public education funding to open up a hands-on Montessori educational approach that is different from Rutherford County’s 50 public schools, Vice President Shelia Bratton said.
The approved charter school plans to open by August 2023 for 150 children in first grade in the La Vergne and Smyrna area on the northwest side of the fast-growing county. The approved 10-year charter includes a K-8 campus that will serve 800 students.
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Board members Coy Young and Jim Estes voted against both charter school applications.
Only board member Tammy Sharp voted against rejecting the American Classical Academy.
“Most parents made it clear that they wanted more ‘school choice’ for their children,” Sharp said ahead of the meeting.
The board’s decision to reject the American Classical Academy was based on a committee recommendation that preceded controversial remarks recently made by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn during a conference with Governor Bill Lee, a supporter of the charter school projects.
“Teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country,” Arnn said. His comments drew national attention.
The majority of the board rejected the plan for the Hillsdale-affiliated charter school despite a dozen or more members of the public holding up signs that read, “I support American classical education.”
The school board’s Charter Schools Committee was concerned that the American Classical Academy would not provide enough details to support a 1776 program that would serve about 650 students.
The rejected charter school may appeal to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission.
The state commission in January accepted another charter school application for Rutherford Collegiate Prep after Rutherford Council rejected that proposed campus that would also open in the La Vergne and Smyrna area.
Watch the Daily News Journal to update this story with more details.
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