Arizona Charter School Considers Opening in Nashville
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn.- In Arizona, Great Hearts Academies already serves more than 5,000 students and will grow to 6,500 students next school year. The expansion is not meant to stop in the Phoenix area. Administrators want to take the program nationwide.
"We want to be wherever and in whatever community shows an interest in having us," Chief Academic Officer Peter Bezanson said.
One of those communities is right here in Davidson County.
"That's what it says more than anything that we're doing something right to attract the highest level of achieving schools, management organizations," Rebecca Lieberman with the Tennessee Charter School Incubator explained.
Great Hearts Academies offers the standard core curriculum with a unique focus on the classics written by authors like Plato, Aristotle and Shakespeare.
"So they read unabridged classics of the Western tradition and have two hour daily seminars over those," Bezanson explained.
Each student takes music and studio arts classes. They're also expected to participate in after school activities. Unlike many charter schools, the options include competitive sports.
"So we think we've got a wonderful education and our record of success here in Arizona really proves that," Bezanson added. "We want to make this sort of education widely available."
Charter schools are no longer meant as just an alternative to low performing schools. Since changes were made to state law, they now provide more options to all families. Rebecca Lieberman of the Tennessee Charter Incubator expects to see even more organizations expressing interest.
"I think what we're going to see is people committed to the same type of reform goals seeking out Tennessee to be effective in the lives of children," she said.
For Great Hearts it's far from being a done deal.
"What we need to judge in Nashville and what we want people to understand about us is exactly the sort of education that we offer," Bezanson said.
Now administrators have to see if enough people are interested and if it's timing is right.
Great Hearts Academies are also considering opening schools in other cities in Tennessee, Texas and the Midwest. However, administrators say they're very excited about the possibilities here in Nashville. They hope to open 5 to 10 schools, starting with one in 2013 serving students from kindergarten to 9th grade.