First state-run school opens in Memphis

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Tennessee State Board of Education and Green Dot Public Schools officially cut the ribbon on Bluff City High School, which is now open in southeast Memphis as of Tuesday morning.

The charter school is the first opened in Tennessee under direct state board authorization, meaning it didn't come without controversy between Green Dot and Shelby County Schools.

"This is the first partnership that the state board has had with a school that we directly authorized," said Sara Morrison, executive director of the Tennessee State Board of Education.

On Tuesday, 160 ninth graders filled the classrooms of an old church on Ross Road in Southeast Memphis.

It only took a few months for the church to be converted to a charter school with a focus on science and math, as well as a plan to expand to all high
school grades in the next four years.

Green Dot Public Schools runs charter schools in California, Washington, and in Memphis, including Kirby and Wooddale middle schools, and Hillcrest and Fairley high schools, which are under Achievement School District.

Green Dot Public Schools asked Shelby County Schools to open Bluff City as a charter school, but the district refused.

"At Green Dot, we believed we were qualified when we'd been running successful high schools for 17 years," said Megan Quaile, executive director of Green Dot Public Schools Tennessee.

Green Dot appealed to the state board of education in 2016, and the state board voted in its favor, meaning the state board works in a partnership now to oversee the school. The model is the first of its kind in the state.

"To have an opportunity to appeal our decision and serve our students was really important for us," said Quaile.

The students at Bluff City are not part of Shelby County Schools. Most came from Wooddale and Kirby middle schools, with 270 applying for 160 slots this year.

Two more schools are planned under this state board operational model in Nashville.

"Increasingly, you're seeing more choices for families, and this school represents one choice for families we're hoping will be a high quality option for the community," Morrison said.

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