Mississippi Gets Its First Charter School

ReImagine Prep has applied and been accepted as the first charter school in Mississippi. The state-run Charter School Authorizer Board accepted the 5th-8th grade school and announced that it will open in Jackson in the fall of 2015.

Jeff Amy of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, writes that the board will now negotiate a five-year contract with RePublic Charter Schools. The company already has two schools in Nashville, Tennessee.

ReImagine Prep "will be setting a great standard for what charter schools should look like in Mississippi," said Karen Elam of Oxford, the authorizer board member who shepherded the application. "In short, really top-notch."

The acceptance of ReImagine Prep come after the rejection of two other charter schools' applications. Columbus Coalition for Educational Options is not opening the Inspire Charter School STEM and Arts Scholar Academy. Nor did the application of the Phoenix Project Early College Charter School in Natchez get the go-ahead.

Tommie Cardin, the chairman of the authorizer board, said the board focused on quality in applications. "We started out with the intention of having very high standards and I think we have delivered on those intentions."

The Associated Press reports, in an article published in the Jackson Free Press, that the Columbus curriculum plan was not thorough enough and it didn't acknowledge the differences between elementary school and high school. There was also concern also that the pastor of New Horizon Church, who would also be the executive director of the school, might have a conflict of interest.

The Phoenix plan was not accepted because there were neither clear nor firm agreements with the community college, and the college that had agreed to allow Phoenix students enroll, which is the backbone of this early college model.

In an article written for The Tennessean, with contributions from the Associated Press, Joey Garrison reports that a Nashville group will lead the new charter school in Jackson. The middle school is a product of the merger of two Nashville charter schools, Nashville Prep and Liberty Collegiate Academy, into a charter management organization. These two schools will also open RePublic High School in Nashville in 2015.

"Throughout this process, many families of South Jackson have expressed a desire for more excellent public school options, and we are here to bring one excellent college prep option to them," said Nashville Prep founder Ravi Gupta, who also serves as managing partner of RePublic Schools.

Nashville Prep was awarded the title of one of Davidson County's 12 reward schools by the state. At the same time, the Metro school board has called for an investigation into the school's practices and "no excuses" model.

There are just eight states in the US that currently do not have at least one charter school: Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.

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