HOPE deferred

Blount school board denies charter application

Blount County School Board has decided not to get into the charter school business.

The Innovative Education Partnership, who are proposing a science, technology, engineering and math charter school called Hope Academy, aren’t giving up and plan to try again in 15 days.

Thursday evening, the Blount County School Board members voted to deny the application for Hope Academy, a STEM charter school organizers say will be a K-5 school of 180 students that they hope to open in late summer of 2012.

Organizers for the Hope Academy say they will wait for the specifics from the school board on what the board sees as the inadequacies of the application, will address each one and resubmit their application within 15 days. The school board will then have 15 days to act. If the application is deny again, the Hope Academy organizers can appeal to the State Board of Education.

“I would recommend we act as expeditiously as possible,” school board attorney Chuck Cagle said of composing and submitting notes to the Hope Academy organizers.

Schools director Rob Britt recommended to the board that the Hope application be denied. He cited concerns with regard to financing, how the school will be operated and issues regarding policy and governance.

“The application itself is vague and ambiguous when it comes to details,” Britt said. “Therefore based on my staff review, analysis and scoring of this charter school’s application, I would recommend declining this application. I would recommend the board decline granting any waivers in this application,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to deny the application and deny any waivers in the application. Present were chair Rob Webb, Mike Treadway, Dr. Don McNelly, Charles Finley, Chris Cantrell and Brad Long.

Mary Bogert, chair of the proposed school’s board, said the academy’s supporters anticipated the application would be denied. “We really anticipated this would happen this evening,” she said.

Bogert said as soon as they get the notes and reasons for denial, they plan to work quickly to answer concerns and resubmit to the board.

“Our team is prepared,” Bogert said. “We will probably resubmit it earlier than the 15 days.”

Bogert said most charter schools initially face challenges when approaching school boards to get applications approved. “It is very typical,” she said. “Charter schools typically do not get approved on the first go-around. We’re grateful the board met with us. All this is a step in the process. Now we can concentrate on the next step.”

Bogert said if the board denies them on the second attempt, their application will be appealed to the State Board of Education.

“If that happens, the state board will come here and hold a hearing,” Bogert said. “The state board will hear from both sides and then make its decision.”

A four hour workshop on the application and details was held on Tuesday night. Blount Today will have an analysis of that workshop as well as more details about tonight’s vote in Monday’s Blount Today.

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