Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has reappointed Alan Levine to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission. Along with Levine, Michael Carter of Davidson County and Chris Tutor of Shelby County have been submitted for approval as members. The two new members will represent Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee respectively, replacing Dr. Derwin Signet and Dave Hanson as board members. Appointments come from the governor, but must be confirmed by the General Assembly.
The Tennessee Public Charter School Commission is composed of 9 members – three from each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions. Charter Commission members must reside within the geographic boundary of an LEA (public school district) with at least one charter school in operation, the commission website notes. Initially, the appointments of the nine members were for three years for three members, four years for three members, and five years for three members. As the terms for the initial members expire, successors are appointed for five-year terms. Levine, Signet, and Hansen were all initial appointments serving 3-year terms.
Since its inception, lawmakers have viewed the makeup of the Charter School Commission as a crucial element in its future success. Early discussions about its creation emphasized the need to ensure the right people were installed. State Representative Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain) made clear the need to appoint people who “have some familiarity with charter schools,” telling her fellow legislators prior to passage, “I think the key point of this legislation – the thing that will make it successful or not – will be the makeup of that charter commission and those making the decisions.”
As an inaugural commission member, Dr. Alan Levine played an integral role in developing current Commission practices and policies. Professionally, he is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ballad Health, overseeing an integrated health system that serves portions of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Levine draws from a depth of experience, having served as a health policy advisor for Governors Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott, and Jeb Bush in Florida.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal appointed him to his cabinet as secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals.
Most recently, Dr. Levine served on the healthcare transition team for Virginia’s Governor, Glenn Youngkin.
While most of his experience lies in health care policy, he is not devoid of experience in education policy. Levine serves on the board of governors of the State University System of Florida, the governing body of Florida’s 12 state universities. In the past, he served as the Chair of the Florida Higher Education Coordinating Council, a policy-setting body for public and private education in Florida. Levine holds a seat on the board of Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).
New appointee Michael Carter is a resident of Franklin, Tennessee. He is the Managing Partner of Pinnacle Construction Partners, LLC a commercial preconstruction, planning, and construction management service company, and President and CEO of MAC LLC, a commercial and residential development company. Carter has served as chairman of the Nashville Public Education Foundation, as well as a member of the transition team for former MNPS Director of Schools Shawn Joseph. He co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a charter school in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan.
Chris Tutor is the most recent Chairman of the Shelby County GOP. He works as an attorney in Butler Snow LLP’s Finance, Real Estate, and Restructuring Group, focusing on Real Estate Development and Finance.
The General Assembly created the State Charter School Commission in 2019 in response to local districts increasingly rejecting charter applications at the local level. Lawmakers have charged the Commission with hearing appeals from operators that have been denied through the local process. The appeals process has been available to operators previously, but up until this year, appeals were heard by the Tennessee State Board of Education. Of the 13 appeals filed, 3 received approval from the Commission, 6 were denied, and 4 withdrew from the process.
If a local decision is overruled, the local district is given a choice of accepting the charter school under its umbrella or placing them in the hands of the State Charter Commission for oversight. At present, fourteen charter schools are administered by the Commission. Twenty-three charter operators have submitted letters of intent with local school districts for the 2023 – 2024 school year. A portion of those will likely be rejected, setting up an appeal and a hearing with the State Charter School Commission.
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TC Weber is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. He also writes the blog Dad Gone Wild. Follow TC on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected] He’s the proud parent of two public school children and the spouse of a public school teacher.
Photo “Bill Lee” by Bill Lee.