- After an initial denial by a WCS committee, Founders Classical Academy has submitted a renewed application.
- The school board will meet in July to consider and vote on the committee’s recommendation.
- Founders Classical Academy’s board now now includes former leadership of USA Classical academy, which withdrew its application early this year.
- Over 300 families expressed interest in USA Classical, many of whom hope to now attend Founders.
An application from K-8 charter school Founders Classical Academy will return to the Williamson County Schools Board of Education for consideration and a vote next month.
After being denied earlier this year, the school is hoping to appeal to the county again, equipped with new community support and leadership as well as feedback from the district’s review of its first application.
Founders and USA Classical Academy first applied to operate in Williamson earlier this year. Both submitted applications at the same time, unbeknownst to one another, despite being almost identical in curricular offerings.
USA Classical Academy eventually withdrew its submission, citing a “strategic alliance” formed as part of Tennessee’s push to “open dozens of charter schools in the next few years” with help from Hillsdale College.
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“Based on this reality, it has become evident to our board that the path to approval to open in the 2023-24 school year, which was always expected to be a challenge, is now an impossibility with virtually zero backing and support from educational and governmental parties involved,” the board wrote in an email to families sent in March.
Founders Classical Academy’s first application was rejected by the committee in April.
“The general feedback is the plan lacked specifics and some sections or attachments were left blank completely,” said Leigh Webb, committee member and Williamson County Schools assistant superintendent of secondary schools.
Since then, former USA Classical Academy board members Mitch Emoff and Cassie Chapman have joined the board of Founders, combining forces to appeal to the district with the backing of Del Rey Education Inc. and partner ResponsiveEd, a charter school management organization.
Although USA Classical planned to use frameworks and training provided by Hillsdale. it was not using the school’s charter management organization.
“We realized we were not really best suited for driving forward this school, to the degree that we didn’t have the educational expertise within our board,” Emoff said in an interview this month.
Another classical school submitting its application at the same time was a “blessing in disguise” to the USA Classical team.
“I was crestfallen when I thought we weren’t going to be able to provide it and then (it) renewed hope when I saw Founders Classical Academy would be able to refine it because they have a different model,” Emoff said. “The education component is built into the organization running it, unlike a bunch of local volunteers like we were.
“They have the backing from ResponsiveEd. … It just made me so excited for the prospects for the parents.”
Founders said in a news release that over 300 families had shared interest in USA Classical. Many of those families have now committed to attending Founders if approved, according to Emoff.
A committee is currently reviewing Founders’ new application.
The school board will reconvene for a special meeting in July where members will consider and vote on the committee’s recommendation. If denied again, the Founders board could appeal to the Tennessee Charter School Commission.
Emoff said he hopes the district moves to support the charter school and that, like him, the district would want to have local oversight.
“We would rather be able to have close supervision and also maybe some partnership opportunities like sharing busing services, food services, special needs services,” he said. “These are all things that we would like to pay our fair share and be able to work with them.”
According to state law, if the commission were to approve a charter school after a board’s denial, the commission would be tasked with oversight of the new school, unless a district were to “mutually agree in writing that the local board of education will be the authorizer and the LEA for the public charter school.”
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At Williamson County Schools though, the board of education committed to relinquishing governance of a commission-approved school, voting to officially add a new clause to its charter school policy at its June meeting.
“If the charter school is authorized by the Commission, it shall remain under the oversight of the Commission,” it read. “The board shall not exercise its legal option to become an authorizer of such a charter.”
Anika Exum is a reporter covering Williamson County at The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network — Tennessee. Reach her at email@example.com, 615-347-7313 or on Twitter @aniexum.
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