NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It was much the same in American Classical Academy’s second appeals hearing of the week.
“Can we get a better understanding of why the board reconstitution happened after the amended application was submitted to the district and was the district notified?” Tess Stovall asked American Classical Education’s (ACE) board.
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Stovall is the executive director of the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission.
ACE legal counsel Rich Haglund had a fiery response. “By raising these concerns in the hearing, the commission seems to be suggesting that ACE did something improper or something that affected its legal standing because we continue to comply with the statutes cited above and feedback from the local board of education,” he said.
It was a repeat of the meeting in Rutherford County on Wednesday, where the ACE board was also a topic of contention.
“We would like information about the other members of the board at this time,” Stovall said.
“As we shared in great detail on Monday with the commission in our capacity hearing, I’m happy to reiterate that here, though I think it’s perhaps not a great use of time for the folks in the audience,” ACE CEO Joel Schellhammer said.
Schellhammer is a graduate of Hillsdale College, the controversial school affiliated with ACE.
In his closing remarks, he went after Madison County’s school board. “I think it would be easy to want to focus on the persistent and consistent deficiencies exhibited by the Jackson-Madison County review team throughout this process,” Schellhammer said.
“Evidence presented today and encountered in the review of the application, including some areas of strength within sections and indicators, as well as responses that did not align, show the unpreparedness of American Classical Academy Madison to serve all students in the Jackson-Madison County School District,” Dr. Vivian Williams said.
Williams is a deputy superintendent in the Jackson-Madison County School System.
Similar to the Rutherford County hearing, a much higher number of people in support of ACE signed up for public comment than for the local Madison County school board.
Of the 13 who spoke publicly (two no-shows), 11 were in favor of ACE, and two were in opposition.
“I’m not opposed to the idea of charter schools in principle. However, today, I stand in opposition to the proposal from American Classical Education for a few reasons,” Matthew Marshall of United Way West Tennessee said. “This would not represent an alliance with our community and leadership and cause further strain on what are already limited resources.”
“All of us are here today, all of you, all of us, because Governor Lee thought this was a really good idea,” Madison County resident Mary Bowen said. “So, we are pushing, we are imploring, we are asking you to consider the American Classical Academy’s program to introduce some much-needed change in curriculum and in mentoring.”
That plan was running smoothly until late June, when a video was released of Hillsdale president Larry Arnn saying, “Teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest schools in the country.”
News 2 asked Dolores Gresham, former Republican state senator and current ACE board member, how much Arnn’s comments made an impact on how upset people are about the charter school potentially coming in.
“Concocted distraction,” she said.
News 2 also asked Gresham how much Hillsdale’s self-description of being a non-sectarian Christian school affected the hearings.
“I don’t think we’d get that kind of response if we were dealing with a partnership with or a collaborative relationship with Vanderbilt or Lipscomb or Belmont,” she said. “I’ll leave it at that.”