published Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Educator plans to reapply for charter school

The New Consortium of Law and Business
The New Consortium of Law and Business

After the Hamilton County Board of Education rejected Tommie Henderson's application to open a business- and law-themed charter school here, the Memphis educator said he will resubmit his paperwork.

Following a recommendation from district administrators, the board voted last month not to approve Henderson's application to open the New Consortium of Law and Business for grades 6-12. Administrators had several issues with the application and scored it at 65.53 of a possible 100 points -- well below the approval threshold of 80 points.

Henderson was a co-founder of the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, which opened as the state's first charter school in 2005. It's now the largest charter in the state with about 750 students.

He said he doesn't agree with all the comments administrators made on his application, but he'll resubmit an amended application in Hamilton County.

He also noted that the state school board has found a very similar application from his group worthy of approval.

Henderson's group, Smart Schools Inc., was twice denied an application to join Shelby County Schools in the Memphis area. The decision was overturned in an appeal to the state board and New Consortium became Shelby's first public charter school. It opened in downtown Bartlett in August.

Henderson said he bases his applications on state charter school standards. And despite coming up short on the first application for Hamilton County, he said he believes he will be able to open a school here.

"I am definitely very optimistic," he said. "I believe and I really feel with making the necessary changes, we're going to have a great partnership with Hamilton County."

On Nov. 2, the Knox County school board denied an application from the organization to start a New Consortium charter school there.

Hamilton County Assistant Superintendent Lee McDade said Henderson's group should have realized some of their application's shortcomings after being rejected in Shelby and Knox counties.

"If he sent the same application and it was denied in Knoxville and denied in Shelby County, then he ought to know that there are some problems with it," he said.

Still, McDade said local school officials are communicating with Henderson throughout the revision process. Administrators voice concerns only because they only want the best charters for the county's students, he said.

"We're not trying to keep a charter school out," McDade said. "If we're going to have our kids going to a charter school, we want them to be ready."

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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