A charter school founder in Nashville has received the OK to open Mississippi’s first charter school. A state panel has allowed the organization behind Nashville Prep to open a middle school in Jackson.
Twelve applicants wanted to start schools under Mississippi’s new charter law, but only one was approved. That was the proposal from Ravi Gupta, who will open a Reimagine Prep inside a south Jackson church in 2015.
He says he wanted to move into Mississippi because of its low rankings in economic mobility. Gupta also says expanding into another state feels like a fresh start.
“Life rarely gives you a chance for a do-over,” Gupta says. “And Mississippi for us is just a huge, huge chance to look ahead to what’s possible instead of looking in the rearview mirror, which is very tempting here in Nashville.”
Gupta says the conversation around charter schools has become – in his words – “toxic” in Tennessee. He says he hopes to start a new dialogue surrounding the privately-run, publicly-funded schools in Mississippi. He calls that a “huge responsibility.”
But the former Obama Administration speech writer is also taking some lessons from his experience in Tennessee. He says he’ll reach out to charter critics from the beginning. The former chair of the Jackson School Board was asked to join his charter school’s board of directors.
“I know firsthand the challenges we have in Jackson, with our public schools,” former board chair Lee Harper said in a written statement. “Charter schools are public schools, and I am excited they will be part of the solution in this city.”
There are also plans to hire more teachers from nearby instead of bringing them in from out-of-state.