Commentary: Rutherford County Needs Charter Schools

by Tammy Sharp


Whether you believe we do, or do not, the fact of the matter is that our governor and legislature have made it clear that they do, and most parents have made it clear they want more “school choice” for their children.

My name is Tammy Sharp, and I am the Rutherford County Zone 1 school board member. I am completing my first four-year term on the board, and am unopposed on the August 4th ballot. This zone I very proudly serve, represents a large part of Smyrna and La Vergne on the east side of interstate 24. Eleven of its 13 schools are Title 1 schools.

La Vergne High School, likely our largest, most diverse Title I high school, is at 95 percent capacity and has seven portables. It was one of the five locations selected by the board earlier this year to receive an annex on the property due to overcrowding. Yet, when proposed to the county commissioners it was moved down to the number four position behind schools that are not at capacity or near capacity in the building plan!

Stewarts Creek High School is at 95 percent capacity and has four portables. We are literally taking items out of storage closets to make classrooms for students and, as a result, having to rent public storage units. When this high school was opened it was already over capacity.

Stewarts Creek Elementary School is over capacity and there was discussion by the board of adding an annex for it, but it didn’t make the list of proposed sites mainly because there is no room for buses to collect or drop off the children on the three-school campus. Proposed enrollment for August is 124.5 percent over capacity and the school has six portables.

Smyrna High School is at 98 percent capacity and has 15 portables, and uses every inch of space for classrooms. Thankfully, it was placed at the top of the building list for an annex. Solid numbers from the architects will not be available until the fourth quarter, and the county commissioners only approved $137 million to build the first three annexes. My concern is that politics will once again determine who gets the annex, not where the need is the most.

La Vergne Mayor Jason Cole has indicated this area has had 11,000 permits pulled for homes to be built over the next two years. Where are we going to put these students? This means that approximately 14,300 students will be moving to this area, and there are no plans to build except for the one high school annex in Smyrna! This area has the most Title 1 schools of the entire county. According to the latest census, poverty in this area is at 12.2 percent.

This week our school board will be voting on two charter school applications that could provide some seriously needed relief in this area, and I thought that help was on the way! American Classical Education, “ACE,” is one of these charters, and they have completed an application for a charter school to help address the needs of this area. But sadly, politics has inserted itself here!

Let me elaborate: It seems everyone across the state has weighed in on the Hillsdale/Larry Arnn controversy, and I think it’s time someone who is directly affected weighs in. Regardless of where you stand on President Arnn’s comments, many of you are missing what really matters and who it really affects: THE KIDS. So, it is CRITICAL that you know that the ACE Charters ARE NOT funded by Hillsdale. They also are NOT a Christian school. They have their own money to build or buy a building that our local taxpayers don’t have to fund to start a charter school in this area. This is an additional choice for our parents. The only affiliation with Hillsdale is the curriculum. How are we now looking a gift horse in the mouth because of comments made by someone? This too would be a choice for teachers who might want to work there. Why would we allow the Teachers’ Union and the Superintendent Association to prevent the desperately needed help for students?

Most of these students were already at risk before overcrowding. Have we really gone so far as a society to allow such blatant politics and guilt affiliation to deny these students a choice of a classical education? Should not the parents be allowed to choose? Why would we allow all these other people who don’t even live in this area to dictate this?

This commentary represents my concerns and position on this issue, and is not intended to be representative of the collective Rutherford County School Board. I plan on voting “yes” to support both charter school applications.

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Tammy Sharp is a member of the Rutherford County School Board.
Photo “Tammy Sharp” by Rutherford County Schools. Background Photo “Classroom” by Wokandapix.


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