Dan Cash Eliot Mitchell

School board members Dan Cash (left) and Eliot Mitchell listen during pubic comment at Thursday night's special-called meeting regarding Founds Classical Academy.

As likely expected by most in the room, members of the Williamson County Board of Education voted unanimously in a special-called meeting Thursday night to uphold a committee’s recommendation to deny an appeal of an application for a new charter school that would operate in the county. 

A 14-member charter school review committee had voted in May — also in a sweep — to deny the appeal from stakeholders for the Founders Classical Academy to open a K-12 charter school by the start of the 2023-24 school year. School board members came down on the side of the committee’s decision by a 10-0 score. Sheila Cleveland from District 7 and KC Haugh from District 11 were absent.

Before the vote took place and during public comment, seven of eight speakers voiced support for Founders Classical Academy, which is part of the Texas-based ResponsiveED Family of Schools.

Mitch Emoff, a leading proponent for the school and a member of its board, said he wasn’t surprised by the school board’s vote, but pledged that parents and others would continue in their quest to have the school operating at some point in Williamson County.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Emoff said after the meeting adjourned. “I think it’s the norm. You look at history, and the local LEA (local education agency) almost always rejects charters because they see them as coming in and taking funds, whatever their motivations are, and it’s rarely approved.

“I will tell you that these parents and this board will not let this fail,” he had said during public comment.

Upon results from Thursday night’s meeting, proponents of Founders Classical can now appeal to the State Board of Education.

Though he was outnumbered, Michael Miller went to the podium to voice opposition to the charter school’s proposed opening in Williamson County. He said it has ties to Moms for Liberty, “the very organization that for the last two years has been terrorizing teachers, parents and this board.”

“WCS is the crown jewel, the golden goose of this community,” Miller added. “I moved here for it. … Most parents like myself trust our teachers. We are comfortable about explaining to our children what they may have heard at school, and our teachers listen to us when we have concerns.”

Founders Classical Academy submitted an application for a public charter school in Williamson County on Feb. 1 this year. Based on the guidance from the Tennessee Department of Education and board policy 1.901, the WCS board-approved review committee evaluated the application to formulate a recommendation to the board. 

The committee recommended denial of the charter application after a thorough review, and the full board voted to uphold the committee’s decision. Founders Classical appealed the denial, and submitted a revised application on May 26.

Upon final review of individual scoring rubrics, the ratings given by each committee member within the three rubric categories (academics, operations and finances) were averaged to determine the summary rating for each category. For an application to be deemed ready for approval, the summary rating for all applicable categories must meet or exceed the standard set by the state.

While the committee determined the school’s academic plan meets the standard, they agreed the operation and financial plans did not. The review committee, therefore, agreed to not recommend approval of the school’s appeal.