Board upholds SCS decision to revoke Southwest Early College High School charter

Board upholds SCS decision to revoke Southwest Early College High School charter
The state board will decide whether or not to revoke the charter. (WHBQ)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee’s State Board of Education voted Monday to uphold the decision of SCS to revoke the Southwest Early College High School charter agreement.

SECHS attempted to appeal the Shelby County School Board’s decision to revoke its charter.

That decision was made Sept. 29.

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One of the reasons SCS decided to close the charter was because Southwest Tennessee Community College planned on ending its partnership with the high school.

During a hearing in Dec 2019, SCS representatives went over the investigation that found more than half of SECHS teachers were unlicensed or were teaching without property certification.

It also found that the school wasn't providing the proper resources to special education students.

SECHS argued that the school board violated its charter agreement by failing to give them a warning about the violations and 60 days to make changes.

In its review, the state board found the following:

SECHS received notification of its failure to meet the federal requirements for special education services in the 2018-19 school year and did not effectively remedy those issues in the new school year. As a result, the situation worsened and required the intense and immediate intervention from SCS to ensure students were receiving their required services.

Additionally, SECHS failed to maintain a strong working relationship with STCC and therefore lost its partnership with the college as a result of its own actions. While a new MOU with a new entity is in place, SECHS leadership lacks a clear plan to ensure the success of this new partnership and to meet the same academic provisions of its charter agreement.

Based on the following procedural history, findings of fact, and analysis of the issues, the Executive Director of the State Board believes that the decision to revoke the charter agreement was not contrary to T.C.A. § 49-13-122.

Therefore, the Executive Director recommends that the State Board uphold the decision of SCS to revoke the Southwest Early College High School charter agreement.

The operator of SECHS, Artesian Schools, released a statement after Monday’s decision.

“We are obviously disappointed by the vote, which ends the opportunity Southwest Early College High School has offered students in Shelby County,” said Ashley Smith. “We had addressed two short-term challenges common at a new school and found new college partners. I’m really at a loss as to how we got here, particularly considering that just a couple months ago, in October, the State Board of Education overturned a charter revocation for a school that had more serious, longer-term issues. I am afraid the climate for charter schools in Shelby County is decidedly negative.”

Smith said SECHS administrators have pledged to work with the school’s high-performing charter partners to ensure students have a smooth transition to new schools next year.