Only one of 10 applicants hoping to open a new charter school in Mississippi received approval Monday.
The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board voted unanimously to approve Instant Impact Global Prep at its September 26 board meeting. Four other schools were denied charter at the meeting, two by split votes and two unanimously.
Instant Impact Global Prep will operate in Natchez beginning with the 2023-24 school year. The school will serve grades K-2 in the first year, with the possibility of expanding to eighth grade. Their mission statement emphasizes a rigorous STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum, as well as emotional development and community engagement. Representatives from Instant Impact Educational Services, which will operate the school, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Of the five schools that made it to the final stages of the application process, Instant Impact Global Prep was the only one recommended for approval by an independent reviewer. Clarksdale Collegiate Prep, Columbus Leadership Academy, and both the Tallahatchie and North Bolivar campuses of the Resilience Academy of Teaching did not meet 100% of performance standards.
Clarksdale Collegiate Prep would have served grades 7 through 12 as a feeder for students currently attending Clarksdale Collegiate Public, a K-6 charter elementary school. Nearly 20 students, parents and teachers attended Monday’s board meeting in person, four of whom spoke directly to the board for charter approval.
Clarksdale Collegiate Public executive director Amanda Johnson spoke to the board about her confidence in her team’s ability to open a new school and the challenges the school has overcome. She added that the independent assessor’s final report does not paint a full picture of her school community and its impact on student learning.
When voting on Clarksdale Collegiate’s motion, board members were divided, with opponents citing the need for additional planning and concerns about the current school’s test dates. Jennifer Whitter, a board member who voted against granting the charter, invited the school to reapply in the future but said they were not ready at this point.
After they were turned down, Johnson said she was deeply disappointed by the board’s decision but stressed she would reapply.
“I’m not giving up on our kids,” Johnson said. “But because we understand how to start and run a school, we understand that we need time to plan, which is why we came here today.”
Clarksdale Collegiate Public will also be up for renewal of its bylaws this school year, which Johnson said she expects to face a challenge.
“It’s definitely going to be an uphill battle because the board characterizes our school,” she told Mississippi Today. “We are just coming out of a pandemic and this is our first year ever that we have an accountability score. What we do is tough. We understand. We have shown and are demonstrating that we are willing and able to do this work.”
Despite this, Johnson expressed confidence that they would have their high school operational by the time they reached ninth grade.
The board’s vote was also divided for the Columbus Leadership Academy, with some board members saying they deserved a chance to prove themselves, but they were also turned down. The board unanimously rejected the Resilience Academy of Teaching schools, raising concerns that the plans were not sufficiently thorough.
Grant Callen, CEO of the Empower Mississippi school choice advocacy group, said students are being let down by an overly restrictive board.
“Today the Board had several applicants who we believe have more than exceeded the threshold for approval to establish a quality charter school,” Callen said. “(We) remain hopeful that going forward, a majority of the Board will understand that creating more options for more students is an urgent need and their primary mission. The children of Mississippi depend on it.”
— Article credit to Julia James of Mississippi Today —