Bad Vision

New Vision Academy, a Nashville charter school, is in trouble again.

The school, once selected as a winner of the SCORE prize for innovation in education, has faced questions over financial management and now is in violation of the city’s fire code.

The Tennessean notes:


The Nashville charter school New Vision Academy has been violating city fire code by enrolling more students than the capacity allowed at the south Nashville church building where it rents space.
Because of the overcrowding issue, Metro Nashville Public Schools is forced to remove at least 64 students from the school in the coming weeks, according to a letter from the district’s charter school chief.
It’s the latest development for a school that has been embroiled in turmoil. New Vision Academy remains under federal and state investigations related to financial irregularities, special education requirements and compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Back in 2015, SCORE — Bill Frist’s education think tank — romanticized New Vision like this:


A small, single-hallway school with nine instructors on staff, NVA has an exceptionally data-rich culture. Many tools for monitoring student growth are in use at this public charter school in Nashville – assessments, benchmarks, math and reading levels – and NVA sets a new standard for using this information productively. Data improves instruction, facilitates teacher collaboration, and aids communication with students and parents

Turns out, innovation may just mean bending, or even breaking, all the rules.

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#Winning

I wrote in May about SCORE prize winner New Vision Academy and some problems they’d run into prompting an investigation by MNPS.

Now, the Tennessean reports the charter school is facing state and federal investigations:

New Vision Academy charter school is under federal and state investigations, which expand on the existing Metro Nashville Public Schools investigation launched earlier this year.

New Vision is being investigated for financial irregularities and compliance with federal laws regarding building accessibility for students with disabilities. The middle school is in a former church building on Havenhill Drive in South Nashville.

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And the Winner is…

Back in 2015, SCORE — The Statewide Collaborative on Reforming Education — awarded the SCORE Prize for Middle Schools to New Vision Academy, a charter school in Nashville.

Here’s a bit of what they wrote about the school:

A small, single-hallway school with nine instructors on staff, NVA has an exceptionally data-rich culture. Many tools for monitoring student growth are in use at this public charter school in Nashville – assessments, benchmarks, math and reading levels – and NVA sets a new standard for using this information productively. Data improves instruction, facilitates teacher collaboration, and aids communication with students and parents.

SCORE lauded the school for an emphasis on TVAAS growth — even though that growth might not mean very much.

Fast forward to this week and a Tennessean story about what’s happening at New Vision Academy:

According to the whistleblower report, students were charged for textbooks even though the school earmarked thousands of dollars for classroom supplies. The top two executives at New Vision, who are married, make a combined $562,000.

The concerns on New Vision highlight the issue of how the district maintains oversight of charter schools. A charter school is funded with taxpayer money, but operates autonomously and is run by its own board of directors.

The teachers who exposed the situation at NVA have been invited to leave:

On Monday, the four teachers who talked to The Tennessean for this story were escorted out of the school.  Three were told not to return. One was allowed back into the school Tuesday to finish teaching the final three days of the school year. All four were told the school is accepting their resignations as of this week.

While the school is small (around 200 students), the top administrators earn more than top-level leaders in MNPS or other large districts in the state:

A financial concern raised in the whistleblower report is the salary of New Vision Academy’s executive director Tim Malone, who made $312,971 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, according to the organization’s most recent public tax documents. His wife, LaKesha Malone is New Vision’s second highest ranking executive. She earned $250,000 during that same period, documents showed.

The accusations prompted multiple investigations from MNPS:

Queen’s office is also investigating the school’s compliance with handicap accessibility laws. The school’s multi-story building does not have an elevator for wheelchair-bound students.

Queen said his office periodically audits charter schools and launches an inquiry when a complaint is levied. The New Vision Academy complaint, Queen said, was extremely detailed and documented, which prompted multiple investigations.

“This was extensive, well written and researched,” he said.

Stay tuned as this story unfolds.

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Keep the education news coming!