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School board rejects charter school application

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Robertson County Assistant Director of Schools Stephanie Mason addresses the Board of Education at the Monday, June 12 meeting. CHERI REEVES

The Robertson County Board of Education has rejected an application from the Springfield Preparatory Academy (SPA) board to open a charter school this fall in Springfield, but the SPA plans to carry forward its plans in the application process.

The application submitted to the school board requested a charter school to begin operating classes in the district by August of 2018. The board of education formally rejected that application by a unanimous vote at the Monday, June 12 meeting of the school board.

In April, the Springfield Preparatory Academy (SPA) had submitted its application to the local school board and the Tennessee Department of Education.

Darrell Woodard, SPA board member, said prior to Monday's meeting that he felt the plan would be denied by the local board, but the group is determined to see the project through.

"We're going to stay the course," Woodard said.

There is an anticipated enrollment of 225 students for the first year of the charter school's operation. The school is proposed to begin with Kindergarten through third grade. Grade levels would be added by one level each year, gradually progressing to 450 students in grades K through 5 by 2021, the fourth year of its operation, if approved.

Robertson County Assistant Director of Schools Stephanie Mason headed the charter school review team and recommended the board reject the application.

Mason said the review team was made up of people on the school level, the district level and a parent.

The review team was trained by Marcy Tidwell with the Dept. of Charter Schools, with the Tennessee Dept. of Education, Mason said.

To assist in the two-month review, the school district also contracted with two independent professionals to help evaluate the application, including a charter school specialist and also a man who is an attorney, accountant and a specialist in school finance.

Mason said there were three components addressed in the application, including the academic, the operations and the financial and business plans.

She told the school board members that the proposed charter school board includes Raymond Francis, Paula Farmer, Walt Hannabass, Darrell Woodard, Sharon Hargraves and Matt Throckmorton.

"This group has worked together for several years for the purpose of offering options for children in the school district," Mason said. "Their commitment to this goal should be acknowledged."

Based on the findings of the review team, Mason said the charter application was not a complete and a coherent plan, so the review team recommended the board deny the charter school application.

School board vice chair Stoney Crockett made the motion to deny the application for Springfield Preparatory Academy. Board member Jeff White seconded the motion.

During the public meeting, there were no questions or discussion by board members regarding the review committee's findings and recommendation.

SPA Board Chair Raymond Francis said now that the school board has ruled against the application, the procedure calls for the Robertson County Board of Education to send a written denial to his group.

"We will then go to the next step," Francis said. "We will need to submit an amended application within 30 days of receiving that denial."

If it is again rejected, the SPA will be able to appeal to the State Board of Education within 10 days of the final decision by the Robertson County Board of Education, according to the state's website.

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