State overturns Metro decision, approves Great Hearts - WSMV News 4

State overturns Metro decision, approves Great Hearts charter school

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A charter school first denied by Metro will get its chance to open after the Tennessee Board of Education overturned the district's decision on Great Hearts Academy.

The state board of education voted unanimously. Great Hearts Academy will open in Nashville, but the state board put in place several conditions, trying to appease the concerns of Nashville's board of education.

It was little consolation for those who see a bigger issue at play.

"We're still disappointed," said Alan Coverstone, with Metro Schools. "Local districts are losing the ability to use charter schools collaboratively and positively to increase student outcomes."

The school appealed to the state after Metro's denial in the complicated case.

District leaders worried about diversity and whether Great Hearts could perform as well as it does in Arizona with the certified teachers required in Tennessee.

"And the notion that we should not be given the benefit of the doubt in making those decisions is weakening our ability to guide that process for the benefit of kids," Coverstone said.

In sending the school's application back to the Metro board, the state board also guaranteed fast action. Metro must take action on the Great Hearts issue at its next meeting.

"We support great charter schools that can deliver in Nashville, and we will continue to recruit them to Nashville," Coverstone said.

Great Hearts must make changes to add a diversity plan, use licensed teachers and open just one of five planned schools for now.

The school already has a location planned near I-40 and White Bridge Road in west Nashville.

The state board's ruling sealed the deal. But those closest to the issue said it will not be the end to the fight over charter schools in Tennessee.

"I think the biggest lesson is that there needs to be more education about what charters are and are not, and who they serve and how we all benefit when they do good work," said Rebecca Lieberman, director of talent recruitment at the Tennessee Charter School Incubator.

In a statement after the ruling, Great Hearts Academy officials said:

"We are extremely pleased with the opportunity to receive a charter to serve the families of Nashville. We are hopeful that we can now move past the polarizing debates and be united by our appreciation of what we teach and learn together."

Great Hearts plans to open in time for the 2014-15 school year.

In another ruling Friday, the state board denied an appeal for Excel Charter Academy, sponsored by Goodwill. The board sided with Metro, and Excel will be able to reapply next year.

Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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