published Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Hamilton County school board may revoke school's charter

The future looks doubtful for a charter school that was supposed to open this fall amid public housing in Chattanooga's Westside neighborhood, because the school's backers haven't signed a lease, shown that they've hired teachers or met any other requirements spelled out in their charter school application.

"We haven't heard anything from them," said Dr. Lee McDade, assistant superintendent of the Hamilton County Department of Education.

At its meeting Thursday night, the school board will consider revoking the charter for The New Consortium of Law and Business, a Memphis-based charter school business that in August was going to start teaching sixth- and seventh-graders at the former James A. Henry School on Grove Street.

It would mark the first time that the board has revoked a school's charter.

The charter school was supposed to meet a list of 59 "key milestones" over the past 11 months, according to McDade, including leasing a building by October and hiring teachers and selecting textbooks by June.

"There's no word they've done anything on the timeline," McDade said.

The school's founder, Tommie A. Henderson, declined to comment when contacted by phone Monday.

"We're first going to speak with the [Hamilton County school] district," Henderson said. "Outside of that, I'm not sure we have any comment on this issue."

Henderson said a representative from the charter school will attend the board meeting.

The Chattanooga Housing Authority, which owns the former James A. Henry School, never heard back after it sent a May 29 letter of intent to lease part of the historic building.

"We had negotiated a lease, and they did not follow through with it," said Adam Green, a commercial real estate agent for Keller Williams, who helped the housing authority put together the deal. "I guess the easiest way to describe it is they didn't call us back."

The housing authority planned to lease the old school's first floor this year, add the second floor next year and then lease the gym, kitchen and basement the third year, said Naveed Minhas, the housing authority's vice president of development. Minhas declined say how much the lease was going to cost. The housing authority doesn't have another tenant lined up, he said.

The school district gave the charter school, which was supposed to open last year, an extra year to get ready, McDade said.

"We went above and beyond for them ... and they just haven't followed through," he said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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