Charters slated for closure to appeal

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The day after the Shelby County School Board voted to close three charter schools, those schools are pushing back.

Charters for Omni Prep Lower, Omni Prep Middle and Southern Avenue Middle plan to appeal the board's decision to the state, claiming the process was unclear and last minute.

SCS said those three schools are in the bottom 5 percent in the state.

"Devastating. The children cried this morning," said a tearful Principal Lytania Black at Southern Avenue Middle.

"We're hopeful that the state department will recognize that what has been said is not true," said Southern Avenue Charter Schools founder Elise Evans. She said she plans to appeal the board's decision, citing concerns with the data.

She said the charter's agreement with SCS was to look at the success of at-risk students who have been enrolled in her school "for at least two years."

She claimed SCS looked at data for all students, which she said is not a reflection of what the school can do, with time.

"Children in Memphis are transient. We might get a student the day before TCAP or TNReady or a week before," Evans said.

"We don't turn students away," Black said.

Tuesday night, as students, teachers and administrators begged the board to save other schools, Southern Avenue Middle, Omni Prep Lower and Omni Prep Middle did not send representatives. Those are the schools the board voted to close. The district said they have not honored their contracts, in terms of performance.

Evans said she did not attend the meeting, because she was scared of losing control.

The co-founder of Omni Schools, Cary Booker, said Omni Schools reached out to board members in writing, and he wanted his students focused on state testing this week.

He, too, plans to appeal.

"We're just disappointed to, in April, sort of the 11th hour, with not really any due process, to face this threat of closure," Booker said.

"Do we have work to do? Of course, we do. Everybody does," Black said.

WREG asked SCS for a response to the planned appeals. The district said, "It is within their right to file an appeal, however our focus will remain on the students impacted by the closures and ensuring their families are aware of the educational options within Shelby County Schools."

Both Omni Schools and Southern Avenue Charter said they remain hopeful they will be open next fall.

Omni Schools has been in operation for six years. Between Omni Prep Lower and Omni Prep Middle, it has 324 students.

Southern Avenue Middle has been in operation five years, though the elementary school has been in operation 11 years. The middle school has 156 students.

School Board Member Stephanie Love told WREG she was displeased with the whole process. She said she would be interested to see Southern Avenue Middle's data.

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