Metro schools director hopes for 'common ground' with state - WKRN News 2

Metro schools director hopes for 'common ground' with state

Dr. Jesse Register Dr. Jesse Register

On the eve of a high stakes meeting with the state, Metro Schools Director Jesse Register says "we have to learn to work together; I think that is the message."

Metro School Board Chair Cheryl Mayes and Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman plan to meet Friday at her request to try and "avert" the state withholding $3.4 million.

This comes after the action Tuesday from Huffman who says the Metro School Board violated the law twice by refusing state orders to approve a controversial charter school called Great Hearts Academies.

Dr. Register said recent changes opening charters to all kids instead of just disadvantaged ones has hit school boards quickly.

"The state legislature changed the law so radically, so very significantly that the doors were thrown wide open," the schools director told Nashville's News 2.

"I think it was difficult for the school board to react that quickly, and they had some very legitimate questions," said Register.

Those questions stemmed mainly from diversity about the Greats Hearts which some school board critics said would be for "affluent, white kids" in west Nashville, but the charter adamantly maintains its diversity plan goes even farther than the one for Metro Schools.

The schools director says Metro and the state need to have more dialogue on open charters.

"Absolutely, because there is a perception out there that we are anti-charter," he continued.

Dr. Register said his staff is making plans to do without the three-point-four million dollars from the State, but he indicates any tough decisions come until later this year or early in 2013 because classrooms and programs are already staffed.

"You can't take $3.4 million out without it having a negative effect, but I would think you won't have to do layoffs," said the schools director.

Potential legal action against the state was not ruled out.

"I don't know if that is in the future or not, we certainly want this to play out well, but I would hope that is not a possibility," he added.

"We have got to get past this, it is not good for us," maintained Register.

He was asked how Metro would do that with the state.

"I don't know, we will see how that conversation goes tomorrow," said the schools director who won't be at the one-on-one meeting between the board chair and education commissioner.

Earlier in the day, Governor Bill Haslam said he is "thrilled" that his education commissioner and the Metro School Board chair will meet tomorrow over the issue that will cost Metro millions in education funds.

"We don't want to withhold the money, we would love to see something work out," Haslam told Nashville's News 2.

He did not go into scenarios of what needs to happen to have "something work out."

"In our mind, the ball is in their court," added the governor in reference to the Metro School Board.

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