/Mississippi’s first charter high school approved to open in Jackson

Mississippi’s first charter high school approved to open in Jackson

Non-profit Mississippi News Monday saw approval for two more charter schools to open in Jackson Public Schools District, including Mississippi’s first charter highschool. Monday’s meeting of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board saw three charter schools being considered. The RePublic Schools, Inc. members approved the applications for two charter schools: Revive Prep K-8 and RePublic High School, Grade 9-12. The board rejected the request to open a Mississippi Delta Academies school within the Leflore County Schools District. The board approved Mississippi’s sixth charter school last month, Ambition Preparatory School. It will open in West Jackson next autumn. To allow more time for applicants to be reviewed, members delayed deciding on Mississippi Delta Academies’ or any of the proposed RePublic Schools, Inc. charters. According to documents from the board, RePublic applied for opening a Jackson K-8 school and a Jackson 9-12 school during the 2020-21 school years. ReImagine Prep, Joel E. Smilow Prep, and Joel E. Smilow College are three of the operator’s charter schools in Tennessee. RePublic’s application was approved by the financial and educational plan requirements. However, members wanted to know how existing schools fared in 2017-18 accountability ratings. ReImagine Prep, and Smilow Prep were both D in their first two years. However, this year RePublic’s application was approved. Members wanted to see how existing schools would fare on 2017-18 accountability ratings. Krystal Cormack, board chair, stated that although there are concerns about Smilow Prep, “ReImagine (Prep), made such great progress that it gave us the feeling that they’re on track. They’ve figured some way to make this work.” “We have enough faith in them to allow them this opportunity, but it is not without some concerns,” RePublic Schools chief executive Officer Jon Rybka stated that his organization was “very humbled that we get to be part of the fabric here, Mississippi.” Rybka acknowledged that although Smilow Prep students are making progress, there is still much to do. Rybka agreed with Carey Wright, the State Superintendent. Improvements in student achievement are not something that happens overnight. Rybka stated, “If a child is coming to us three-fourth grade behind, and they grow by 1.5 year that is great, then that’s tremendous growth.” However, this is not enough to raise their proficiency level. This takes many years. As with our Nashville schools, many of our students require multiple years to reach the proficiency level. This year ReImagine Prep was just one point away earning a B rating. It’s all about adult investment and adult input that leads to learning opportunities for children. Rybka stated that even though I may say so, we don’t want to be too ahead of ourselves. “…We didn’t close the equity gap because we went from D to a high C.” Another operator, Mississippi Delta Academies, was also examined by the authorizer board. Tamala Boyd Shaw was the founder of the operator and intended to open a Grade 6-8 school in Leflore County. Cormack stated that the board denied Monday’s application because the plan did not address the educational needs of the applicants. Boyd Shaw was encouraged by members to apply again next year. They described her application as strong but lacking detail in how it would address the specific challenge of teaching charter school students in middle schools. Boyd Shaw and a parent of a public school interested in the school were disappointed with the decision. Boyd Shaw may still apply for next year’s cycle. However, before the authorizer board can approve an application, operators must obtain approval from the local board of education if they want to open a charter within an A, B, or C-rated area. Leflore County School District was given a C rating last school year. It is currently merging with Greenwood Public Schools District, which received a D. Public school districts and their supporters have always opposed charters opening due to the fact that they take funding from the entire district. Boyd Shaw stated, “I am very disappointed. More so because the Leflore County children, in my view, will no longer have what could have been life-changing educational journey for them.” “I am determined to continue to examine what it looks like to disrupt inequities, especially in the Mississippi Delta.”_x000D