A prominent resignation spotlights a fundamental push-and-pull in Nashville's charter school movement. Internal documents have been released related to the departure of the CEO from LEAD Public Schools.
Chris Reynolds stepped down just days before the start of the semester without explanation. So the Nashville Scene and school board member Will Pinkston filed an open records request. Those emails show LEAD's board forced Reynolds out because he was focused on opening new schools, in their view, to the detriment of improving existing ones. He was downplaying poor test scores from two schools that LEAD was tasked by the state to turn around (Brick Church and Neely’s Bend) while pursuing two new charters, which were ultimately denied and later abandoned.
"First of all, I want to commend the LEAD board for spotting the problems and taking steps to correct it," says Pinkston, a constant charter critic. But he adds that the emails show the recent expansion request were not in the best interest of students.
"If this was about kids, they would be focused on strengthening their academic program."
Deficiencies at existing schools have increasingly become the board's excuse for blocking expansion efforts in Nashville, like applications from Rocketship. But many board members also say the city just can't handle any more privately-run charters.
LEAD officials declined to comment but released a statement from interim CEO Dwayne Tucker:
"Our mission is to continue to support the needs of all students in our care across the board at all of our schools and in all of our communities. Our efforts moving forward are to continue to ensure that all LEAD students have the same opportunity for academic growth and achievement across all schools in our network."