Tag Archives: Barbic

Haslam: Vouchers Not Necessarily a Done Deal

Gov. Bill Haslam, who assigned a task force to develop a school voucher program for Tennessee, says that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll push for passage of the resulting recommendation in the General Assembly next year, according to TNReport.
The governor said the state needs to have a serious discussion about a school vouchers program, but said he’s still undecided whether he’ll throw his full support behind a proposal due to him later this fall. A Haslam-appointed task force stopped short of firming up details of a proposed plan Wednesday.
“A lot of it depends on what it looks like. Let’s get the very best form, see what it looks like for Tennessee, then we as an administration will decide where we’ll be on that,” Haslam told reporters after a Nashville economic development announcement.
The state task force is still torn on key aspects of a proposal to use taxpayer money to pay for students to attend the private, parochial, charter or non-zoned public school of their choice. Major sticking points range from when the system would kick in to which students could cash in.
“You can get the policy right but still screw things up on the ground,” said Chris Barbic, a task force member and superintendent of the state’s Achievement School District, an arm of the state Department of Education charged with turning around failing schools.
Barbic, who founded a successful charter school in Texas before joining the Haslam administration in 2011, said he knows the state is juggling a handful of education reforms right now but said there’s no use in waiting to come up with a voucher plan.
“Parents get to figure out where they buy bread and toothpaste, and we’re going to limit their options on where they send their kids to school?” he said. “I have a hard time with that.”
The Republican-led General Assembly is anxious for the recommendations of the task force after the governor put off the issue of offering “opportunity scholarships” this year in favor of more study about what a voucher program would look like in Tennessee. Speakers of both chambers say they, too, expect vouchers to be a key issue in the 2013 legislative session.

State Intervenes in Operating Six Memphis Schools

The state of Tennessee will run three Memphis City Schools in Frayser next fall, reports the Commercial Appeal. Three more, mostly in North Memphis, will convert to or co-exist with charter schools as part of a strategic effort to concentrate on pockets of town where schools chronically under-perform.
Corning Elementary, Frayser Elementary and Westside Middle will open in the state Achievement School District, according to a late-afternoon announcement Monday at Ed Rice Community Center in the heart of Frayser.
At the same time, the charter KIPP Memphis will open a middle and high school inside Cypress School. Privately run Cornerstone will convert Lester School in Binghamton to a charter school and Gestalt Community Schools will open a middle school inside Gordon Elementary in North Memphis.
“I see what we are doing as community transformation work, making sure that Frayser continues along the lines many of you in this room are working on,” Chris Barbic, ASD superintendent told a roomful of parents, school leaders and community activists in the event attended by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.
“We see this as a collaboration, not a takeover. It’s an opportunity to create a brand-new education system focused on the students in the bottom five percent,” Barbic said.

On the New Achievement School District Chief, Chris Barbic

Andrea Zelinski has written an article on Chris Barbic, a “Vanderbilt graduate and acclaimed Texas charter-school founder,” who has been named superintendent of Tennessee’s first Achievement School District (ASM) — deemed a job that is “nothing short of figuring out how to replace academic despair and defeatism with success, excellence and optimism in Tennessee’s most dismally performing schools.”
Here’s a sample question and the answer:
TNREPORT: How do you plan on navigating the Legislature and state bureaucracy?
BARBIC: I don’t want to be na├»ve about the politics, but I wasn’t brought here to do that. I was brought here to be on the ground and work in schools. The governor, the commissioner, the Legislature, they can do that, and I feel like there’s the right leadership there with the right values and the right amount of courage to provide the cover that we’re going to need to do this work. This is going to be hard work, and we’re not always going to get it right. We’re going to make mistakes. Anytime you’re doing something new, it’s not going to be perfect. I feel like when the glass breaks and we make a mistake, as long as we own it and move on and learn from it we’re going to be okay.
As usual, Ms. AZ has video with the story.

Texan Charter School Founder to Run TN Achievement Schools (for $215,000 per year)

A Texas charter school founder who received $1 million from Oprah Winfrey last fall to expand the network is taking on Tennessee’s lowest performing schools, including four in Memphis, according to the Commercial Appeal.
As superintendent of the new Achievement School District, Chris Barbic of Houston, 40, … will be paid $215,000 per year, from the $501 million in federal Race to the Top funds the state received last year to categorically improve K-12 public schools. He starts Aug. 1.
The ASD is budgeted to receive $49 million over four years.
“I’ve been in education for 19 years, I taught for six years and have been serving as superintendent for eight, going on 10 schools,” said Barbic, founder of Yes Prep Public Schools, a conglomerate of charters that serves 4,200 students, 80 percent of them economically deprived.

See also the Department of Educaton news release, reproduced below.

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