Shelby County Schools recommends closing troubled charter

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Shelby County charter school could be closing after allegations that teachers falsified records and left students to teach themselves.

That means 165 ninth- and 10th-graders at Gateway University could be headed to a new school, depending on whether school board members decide to shut it down.

Gateway University is supposed to be steering students toward excellence, leadership and scholarship, but some complain it’s failing miserably.

“We had several people say that the students taught themselves,” said Bradley Leon, chief of strategy and performance management for Shelby County Schools.

The office of charter schools says a whistleblower who came forward in June exposed a series of disturbing problems at Gateway, with allegations from unqualified teachers running classrooms, to grade-fixing.

In one geometry class, every single student was given the same grade — a 92. Then, every student failed the year-end test.

“The reason this was so difficult to catch is the school was falsifying its records,” Leon said.

On Tuesday, the board heard from school investigators, who claim the school managed to cover up the indiscretions from both the district and the state.

“We talked to as many people that would come forward,” Leon said of the investigation.

They say it’s possible they would have eventually uncovered the problems, but admit the whistleblower’s tip sped up the investigation.

They’re recommending a full shutdown.

“Everybody should be held accountable for the education of our children,” said Stephanie Love, one of the school board members deciding the charter’s fate.

“Because as we know our children can’t get back those months or those years or those weeks lost when we as adults don’t do what’s right by our children.”

The board will vote on Gateway University’s charter in two weeks.

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