One day after East Nashville United blasted district leaders for emails related to the future of Inglewood Elementary, including a possible charter conversion, a spokesperson for MNPS said in a written statement that the emails referenced by ENU only reinforce that no final decision about Inglewood’s future has been made.
In a press release issued Tuesday, East Nashville United called on MNPS Director of Schools Jesse Register to “back away from his backroom deal to hand over the management of Inglewood Elementary School to KIPP, a local charter school operator.”
In response, district spokesperson Joe Bass wrote that MNPS is “considering all of the potential options” and “discussing those options with leaders at KIPP and with parents at the schools.”
Here’s the full press release from East Nashville United:
East Nashville United is calling on Jesse Register to back away from his backroom deal to hand over the management of Inglewood Elementary School to KIPP, a local charter school operator.
On September 24th, Nashville Schools Director Jesse Register hosted a community meeting at Inglewood Elementary to discuss his recently announced East Nashville schools’ plan. Nearly every parent at the meeting voiced unbridled support for their zoned school, prompting Register to tell the Nashville Scene that he was not inclined to hand over Inglewood to KIPP.
“It sounds like this community does not want this school to convert to a charter school. So, we need to hear that,” said Register. “I would be very hesitant to recommend a conversion here. There are some other places where a conversion might work, but I don’t think so in this community.”
On Monday, however, it was revealed that Register had already made a deal with KIPP for Inglewood Elementary, despite repeated assertions to the community that “there was no plan” and statements to Inglewood Elementary parents confirming that he was not going to convert the school to a charter. Recently released emails confirm that the district’s central office had already settled on Inglewood as a location for the next KIPP location, weeks before Register announced his 3rd Way Plan to the school board.
“We made it very clear to Dr. Register that we were not in favor of a charter conversion and he appeared to listen,” says Jai Sanders, an Inglewood parent and one of the founding members of East Nashville United. “But now it’s clear that the fix was already in to flip our school to KIPP and that his meeting with parents was a charade.”
Although East Nashville United has repeatedly signaled its support for the existing charter schools in the Stratford and Maplewood clusters, John Haubenreich, the chair of the parent-led group, affirmed yet again that his group’s opposition to the district’s dealings is not over the role of charter schools in public education.
“Had the parents at Inglewood expressed any interest in handing over their school to KIPP, we would not oppose a charter conversion,” Haubenreich says. “But the parents made it clear that they did not want a charter to run their school. What they wanted–and still want–is for their zoned school to stay intact, only with MNPS providing it with the resources it needs to succeed.”
Haubenreich says he is mystified how Register could hedge his position after hearing from so many Inglewood parents.
“Our message all along has been that any East Nashville plan can be created only after listening to parents and educators,” he said. “We thought that’s the direction we were all headed, but now it appears we’re back to square one, fighting a cram-down scheme concocted in back rooms by people who don’t live in our neighborhoods and don’t have kids in our schools..”
Ruth Stewart, the vice chair of ENU, says that the recently released emails raise serious questions about whether Register has any plans to listen to the community task force. The task force, pushed for by East Nashville United, was supposed to help devise a plan by listening to parents and educators and researching the best options for each school. Stewart, however, says the recently released emails suggest that district officials and charter officials were already engaged in serious policy discussions well before anyone else knew an East Nashville plan was afoot.
“We were told over and over that there was no plan, but the emails show the exact opposite.” Stewart says. “Before the task force begins its work, we want to know details of this secret plan. We’re not sure what the point of having a task force is if the district is already making decisions behind closed doors, with no community input. Who knows what else they’ve already decided and haven’t told us about.”
Here is the full text of the written response from MNPS spokesperson Joe Bass:
The emails and public comments referenced by East Nashville United only reinforce what we have consistently said all along – that no final decision about the KIPP conversion has been made. What these comments show is that we are considering all of the potential options, discussing those options with leaders at KIPP and with parents at the schools.
The feedback we are receiving is helping to inform our decision, and we want to receive more input before a final decision is made. It’s not just the loudest voices that should be heard in this decision-making process, but all voices.
We want to hear from parents with children currently enrolled in the schools under consideration for conversion, as well as parents who are already choosing other school options for their children and parents who have young children who will be entering the school system in the future.
We appreciate the passion that is being shown by parents across East Nashville – their involvement in this process is key to creating a stronger network of schools in that part of our city.
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