Chattanooga Prep, a new all-boys charter school, waits for school board approval

Chattanooga Prep, a new all-boys charter school, waits for school board approval

April 21st, 2017 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

More than two months ago, leaders of Chattanooga Preparatory School submitted an application to Hamilton County Schools to start an all-boys public charter school in 2018.

The school plans to build off of the nationally recognized success of Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and provide boys with the support needed to counteract the crippling effect poverty can have on education.

Hamilton County Schools officials had said the board would vote on the charter Wednesday night, but district officials moved the vote to Thursday because they didn't provide the board with information about the school's application in time for a vote.

State law gives the district 90 days to review the charter and present it to the board for approval. If no action is taken during that time, the charter is automatically approved.

Hamilton County Schools Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly said reviewing a charter application is a long process, and he plans to send the application to the board soon. Chattanooga Prep's charter was submitted Feb. 14, meaning the board has until May 14 to vote.

"The time limit [for the board to vote] is near," Kelly said. "We will have to have a special session to allow them to vote."

Ted and Kelly Alling, who are founding Chattanooga Prep, said they understand the board has 90 days to make a decision, and they look forward to district leaders completing their review of the charter and recommending it to the board for approval.

"We are excited for all that's ahead," the Allings said Thursday.

Chattanooga Prep comes at a time when much public attention is being placed on the lack of equity in Hamilton County Schools. The high schools serving a majority of the district's poor and minority students are failing to prepare graduates for college or career, and most kids struggle to escape the toxic cycle of poverty, data shows.

The Allings, a couple in their late 30s, decided to open Chattanooga Prep after visiting CGLA, realizing the opportunity they could provide boys and their families through a public charter school.

Chattanooga Prep plans to open with 60 sixth-graders in 2018, adding a grade each year. The boys will be given high academic expectations and the support they need to reach them, organizers said. The school's curriculum will be based on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and focused on leadership. Mentorship of the boys is also foundational to the school's mission, the Allings said.

Chattanooga Prep will partner with CGLA, and the Allings have purchased two former Tennessee Temple University buildings on Union Avenue in Highland Park next to the girls' school.

CGLA has posted large academic gains in the past couple of years and is helping girls who arrive at the school grade levels behind start to catch up to their peers. Because of the school's success, the state is studying CGLA as a model for its work turning around low- performing schools.

Elaine Swafford, executive director of CGLA and an adviser to Chattanooga Prep, previously said parents have been asking her to open a boys school, seeing the recent success CGLA has had preparing girls for college. Nearly all of CGLA's students live in poverty, and 90 percent of last year's graduating class went to college, which far exceeds the county's average.

Swafford said Chattanooga Prep is the opportunity those parents have been waiting for.

Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at krainwater@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6592.

Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.


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