Local charter school facing multiple academic violations, could close at end of year

SHELBY CO., Tenn. — A local charter school could close at the end of this school year for academic violations.

The Shelby County School District recommended the school board revoke the charter of Gateway University Charter School.

The district conducted an investigation into Gateway after a whistleblower came forward with allegations of unlicensed teachers for some topics – and students receiving the same grade in class.

Board members said it’s time to take a hard look at how they hold charter schools accountable.

“It’s unheard of really, the process that happened at Gateway,” said Miska Clay-Bibbs, a board member.

Gateway is only in its second year as a charter school, but this could be its last.

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The investigation revealed a series of academic violations, including every student earning a 92 percent in geometry – and the use of unlicensed teachers for English and World History.

“How long were those teachers in the building? Were they on some type of plan to transition to being certified, or were they out the gate hired as uncertified and nobody had then on a plan and they were like here you go?” said Clay-Bibbs. “Revisit the process.”

District staff believes the board should revoke the school’s charter based on those violations.

SCS told FOX13 that eight charter schools have closed since 2014-15. Four were revoked and four voluntarily closed.

Gateway is one of six new charter schools that opened during the 2017-18 school year.

In SCS’s latest performance report, only 33 percent of K-8 charter schools earned a “good” rating, but several secondary charter schools earned “excellent” ratings.

There was not a rating given to Gateway, but now some board members want to audit charter schools – something the district doesn’t do right now.

“Charter schools are different from district managed schools because they have their own boards that they would often times look to conduct audits like that, so we have to really discuss the division of responsibility between SCS and the charters themselves,” said Bradley Leon, SCS chief of strategy and performance management.

SCS staff will notify parents about its findings Wednesday morning, and the board said if the school closes, they will work with parents to make sure they are on track to graduate.

The school board will take a final vote on Jan. 29.