American Classical Education (ACE) informed the Tennessee Department of Education and school boards of education in five counties – Rutherford, Montgomery, Madison, Maury, and Robertson – in separate letters last week it intends to apply for public school charters to operate classical schools in those five counties.
“We’ve filed our letters of intent with the school districts and the department,” Dolores Gresham, an ACE board member, former Tennessee State Senator, and former Senate Education Committee Chair, told The Tennessee Star.
“We’ve already heard back from the department and are looking forward to submitting our applications before the February 1st deadline. The department also pointed out a minor clerical error we made on the letters of intent and we’ve been in touch with them – fixing the clerical error immediately and our letters of intent are in good standing,” Gresham added.
Public charter schools are alternatives to K-12 public schools which students may attend at no cost. Though they are taxpayer-funded, they are operated by private organizations that successfully complete an approval process prescribed by state law.
In Tennessee, there are two methods by which a private organization can be approved to operate as a public charter school.
The first method is to secure a majority approval from the board of education in the geographic area of the Local Education Agency (LEA) in which the public school intends to operate. If denied at the school board level, the second method is to appeal to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission (TPCSC) for approval of applications denied at the LEA level.
Earlier this year the Hillsdale College-affiliated ACE applied for public charter school approval in three counties – Rutherford, Madison, and Montgomery. The school boards in all three counties denied those applications. ACE subsequently submitted appeals for approval in those counties to the TPCSC, but withdrew those appeals prior to receiving a ruling from the TPCSC.
The ACE public charter school applications have been complicated by controversial comments made earlier this year by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, widely viewed as critical of public school teachers. ACE is an independent organization that received initial financing from Hillsdale College and intends to use Hillsdale College curriculum in the operation of any public charter schools approved for operation in Tennessee.
ACE’s decision to add two counties – Maury and Robertson – to the three counties in which it has already expressed interest to operate – Rutherford, Madison, and Montgomery – is an indication of the educational organization’s commitment to the state of Tennessee.
ACE’s six member board includes well respected members of the communities it seeks to serve. In addition to former State Senator Gresham, the board includes:
- Michelle Garcia, Director of Finance for Tennessee-based charity, Men of Valor
- Joey Hale, Principal with Town and Country Real Estate
- Dennis Pearson, Professor at Austin Peay State University
- Tricia Stickel, Maury County Election Commissioner
- Darrell Woodard, Robertson County Commissioner
Rutherford County’s Board of Education has new members and new leadership since the board denied the ACE application in that county earlier this year, and several new board members as well as a number of local parents have previously expressed support for ACE’s application in the county.
Similarly, widespread support in Maury County for ACE’s application appears to be growing,
“As a supporter of young people and families, I welcome ACE’s desire to bring a classical public charter school to Maury County,” Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt told The Star.
“We need to provide families with additional school choice options and we all want what’s best for each individual student and his or her needs. It is evident that there is a desire from many families for a classical school curriculum and we can support all students by providing additional school options to enhance the success of every child,” Butt added.
Read the letters of intent:
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