Charter school applicant sees unexpected financial hurdles
By Kerri Bartlett
Hours after submitting the application to open Williamson County’s first charter school, Freddie Haddox said he already sees unanticipated financial hurdles aligning before him.
Haddox submitted an application April 1 for a charter school that could open as soon as fall 2014. However, Haddox is adjusting his original plan as he realizes that establishing public school from scratch takes more than blackboards and teachers.
“Over the last few months, we realized that the guidelines are more rigorous than expected,” Haddox said.
As a public school – albeit an alternative public school largely beyond the purview of the school district’s administrators – Haddox must provide adequate resources for special-needs students, physically disabled students, and students whose first language is not English.
Federal laws require public schools to provide wheelchair access and services for children with special needs, which is presenting unanticipated costs for the upstart enterprise that would service grades 7 through 12. Originally projecting a student body of about 32, Haddox recently cut that estimate by half. As a means to shore up the school’s financing, he plans to use revenue generated by his Franklin-based, USDA-organic agri-business, Mamushi Nature Farm, which could pump as much as $160,000 into the school in its first year.
Likewise, to help minimize overhead expenses, Haddox said that some of the classes in the first year would take place at a Cool Springs hotel, which is already handicap-accessible.
“We are committed to our mission, and believe that it’s worth it to provide an outlet for children, especially homeschoolers, to receive a high level education,” Haddox said. “Home-schooled students seem to be marginalized and need an outlet to prepare them for higher level learning that will prepare them for college, and the science and technology world.”
He explained that the school would place a special focus on higher-level sciences and math to help raise home school students’ ACT scores and their college competitiveness.
“Some students might want to become sustainable farmers and better our world that way, but some might also want to become physicists or physicians,” he said.
The Williamson County School Board has 90 days to review the application and vote whether to approve.
“I am committed, along with the school board, to providing an impartial and objective review of the application,” said Williamson County Schools Superindendent Dr. Mike Looney. “It is up to the school board to decide if the charter school is in the best interest of the boys and girls of our county.”
Posted on: 4/1/2013