Members of the Williamson County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to effectively deny an application from a group that has sought to start a charter school in the county that would serve students with autism.
An organization known as Autism Charter Schools of TN submitted an application in February to start a school that would be called Foundations Autism Charter School and would be governed by the Williamson County Schools board. Soon after the application was filed, a committee was formed to review the it and make a recommendation.
Chaired by Maria Griego, executive director for WCS Student Support Services, the committee ultimately determined the overall plan for the proposed charter school did not meet the standards of three major categories considered: academic, operations and financial plans.
“The committee did not believe this charter school provided something that was unable to provide,” Griego said at last week’s board work session, when most of the discussion took place. “The premise behind their proposal was they were going to include applied behavior analysis — or ABA — therapy within a school setting. It was a school designed around that premise, and WCS already does that.”
By a vote of 11-0 with one member absent, the school board agreed with the committee to deny the application.
It was pointed out at Thursday’s work session that each committee member spent an estimated 20 or more hours on the process of reviewing the application, researching, interviewing the applicant and reaching their decision.
“I think what the board can be impressed with is the degree of professionalism, the degree of thought, the degree of detail that people brought to this,” said Mark Samuels, assistant superintendent for WCS Operations and one of the committee members.“This was evidenced by the discussions in the group sessions we had.”
Daniel Byrdsong, former CFO for the group Autism in Motion Clinics (AIM) who represents the organization seeking to start a charter school in Williamson County, said in an email Monday morning to the Home Page that “if the board votes to deny we will take the 30 days to address the committee's comments and amend the application in hopes of approval.”
If that appeal is rejected by the board, Byrdsong could then take his case before the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission. That commission was established Jan. 1 this year under a new state law Gov. Bill Lee had inacted.