Cooper: Boys' charter school a good move

Cooper: Boys' charter school a good move

November 8th, 2016 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

Ted and Kelly Alling are the co-founders of Chattanooga Prep, an all-boys charter school expected to open in Highland Park in 2018.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

For many parents in Chattanooga's most struggling neighborhoods, the announcement of the creation of an all-boys Chattanooga Prep School is an answer to prayers.

They are the same type of prayers, hopes and dreams most parents harbor for their children — a better life than they as parents had, an education that challenges their child, an atmosphere that mimics what they as parents want to give their children, an education where one size doesn't fit all, an environment that prepares them for good jobs and a good life.

The charter school, planned for a 2018 opening, is the type of recommendation we had hoped might come out of the Chattanooga 2.0 initiative. It was one of the ideas floated by the founding leadership of UnifiEd, a community education empowerment organization. It is the type of thinking we hope will come from a new superintendent of Hamilton County Schools.

It is, after all, somebody trying to do something different, to change things, to shake things up. And that's not been the broad history of the local school district, especially where it concerns the equitable education of children in struggling neighborhoods.

Instead, public school-only backers predicted failure for Chattanooga's current three privately run charter schools when they began over the last decade. They're taking away money from our public schools, they argued. They won't have qualified teachers, they predicted. They won't be able to stay afloat, they said. Yet, they're all thriving.

The same public school-only supporters also are adamantly against even a trial voucher system, where a limited number of qualified students in low-performing schools would receive a voucher to attend a private school for the same amount of money that would be given to the school district for that student.

It amazes us how these folks, who claim to want the best for students, would rather have them return to schools with a growing history of poor performance instead of trying something that might improve their lot.

Chattanooga Prep, the brainchild of Ted and Kelly Alling, will have a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculum and will focus on leadership. Mentorship of the students also will be foundational.

The school will partner with Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy (CGLA), one of the current three Hamilton County charter schools, and will be located adjacent to CGLA in two buildings formerly occupied by Tennessee Temple University.

It will open with 60 sixth-graders and add a grade a year.

A connected clinic and food pantry are also in the Allings' plans, enhancing the sort of wraparound format that some public school districts are beginning to think about today in the knowledge that lack of nutrition and medical care are among concerns for students from struggling neighborhoods.

The Allings moved to Chattanooga in 2002, he as a founder of Access America Transport and she as resource manager of Habitat for Humanity. Through Habitat, they learned of the struggles of families in Chattanooga's poorer neighborhoods.

After they sold Access America two years ago and spent a year's sabbatical with their three children in London, they returned to the Scenic City to determine how they could make a difference with the aforementioned families.

Chattanooga Prep is their answer, and we believe it couldn't come at a better moment. With Chattanooga 2.0, with stagnant county test scores, with a headline-grabbing high school rape case, with the threat of a state takeover of struggling schools and with McCallie School's creation of the National Center for the Development of Boys, the past year has seen a laser focus on local public education.

Yet, one new school board member recently made a motion and two other school board members made the necessary moves to place on the agenda at the next meeting of the Hamilton County Board of Education the idea that we continue with the leadership now in place at the school district. Since then, interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly has asked that a search voted on by the board go forward.

With respect to the efforts of that leadership, though, we believe out-of-the-box thinking like what the Allings are doing is more along the lines of what is needed for local schools.

We're excited for the prospects of Chattanooga Prep's students and hope the school can be a catalyst for deeper thinking about the long-term needs of local education.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315