Following Tumultuous Start, Boys Prep Charter School Will Close

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Boys Prep was the subject of a City Paper cover story last year
  • Boys Prep was the subject of a City Paper cover story last year
Less than two years after launching a school organizers had hoped would become public version of the prestigious Montgomery Bell Academy, leaders at Boys Prep Charter School voted today to call it quits by giving up its charter and closing down its school.

The move is one of the last in a long string of troubles the school has faced, namely struggling with rapid turnover among school board members, the removal of multiple executive directors and dismal student test scores.

“It had to do with limited experience and follow through on the board, a series of changes in leadership, conflict in leadership and the inability to really get started with a solid governance foundation, which then trickled into a failure to be able to sustain leadership at the school level,” said Alan Coverstone, executive director of Metro Schools’ Office of Innovation, which oversees district charter schools.

At least five different school leaders have been in charge of the school in the last two years, and some transition periods had no leadership at all, he said.

“You can’t expect a school to be successful beyond that. And that’s the reason, really, that we’re seeing this school being unraveled within two years rather than continuing,” he added.

The news comes as the 90-student school is in the midst of TCAP exams. The school will say open through the end of the school year, May 30, according to district officials. Students can revert back to their zoned schools next school year or apply for seats in other district choice schools or charter schools, district officials said.

The board voted Wednesday to voluntarily resign their 10-year charter less than two weeks after Coverstone brought concerns to the school’s board about the instabilities “percolating below the surface.” He suggested the board vote to close the school or the district may close it for them, he said.

Charter schools with low performance in their first year tend to struggle with that same problem through their fifth year, according to a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University.

“It says the schools that start strong, stay strong or start weak and stay weak when it comes to charter schools in high numbers. I think we’re seeing that,” said Coverstone who added the district must be diligent to stay on top of oversight and press for the closure of schools that aren’t performing.

In a statement by Michelle Bouton — the Boys Prep board Treasurer and consistent fixture at the school since the beginning — she said the decision was made now to ensure families enough time to pursue other options for next school year.

“Due to continuing issues with declining enrollment leading to concerns about financial viability, Boys Prep, in conjunction with MNPS, has made the decision to close at the end of the 2013-14 school year," the statement read. Attempts to reach Bouton and other school officials late Wednesday were unsuccessful as of this posting.

The school opened in the fall of 2012 with 95 seventh grade boys, according to MNPS officials. This school year, 146 boys enrolled between seventh and eighth grades, but enrollment has since dropped to under 100 students.

Boys Prep is the third Nashville charter school to close. Others include Smithson Craighead Middle School and Nashville Global Academy. The charter school is one of three the district warned last fall it would seek to shutter if performance didn't improve. The others are Drexel Prep serving K-6 and Smithson-Craighead Academy serving K-4.

“We recognize that this was a difficult decision and is an unfortunate outcome for the Boys Prep board, which worked hard to achieve its goals, and particularly for the families and parents of children who chose Boys Prep,” read a statement from the Tennessee Charter School Center.

“However, it was the right decision. The State of Tennessee and MNPS entrust charter schools with tremendous responsibility to educate children and have established appropriately demanding standards for performance and accountability,” read the statement.

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