Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Phil Schwenk with American Classical Education charter schools in studio to react to approval by Rutherford County to open up the application process.
Leahy: We are delighted to have in our studios our good friend, Mr. Phil Schwenk, from American Classical Education. Phil, it’s great to see you again.
Schwenk: Oh, good morning. It’s good to be here.
Leahy: You’re always a fun guy to talk to.
Schwenk: (Chuckles) Thank you. You as well.
Leahy: And so it’s always lively. The thing about you, Phil is being an educator is very different than being a conservative journalist or a conservative broadcaster.
Schwenk: I would agree with that.
Leahy: I have a little bit of an edge. But I try to approach things logically. You approach things very logically, but you are probably the calmest and most self-assured person I’ve ever met in terms of dealing with controversial issues. I think it plays well in education.
Schwenk: Thank you. I care deeply about people.
Leahy: You do. And I think that comes across. And by the way, congratulations are in order, Phil, because on Tuesday, the Rutherford County School Board approved the charter application for American Classical Education in Rutherford County in a five to two vote, a resounding victory for American Classical Education.
Schwenk: Absolutely wonderful. We’re absolutely delighted and excited to get to work there in Rutherford County.
Leahy: So if you would, this will be the first American classical education, a charter school in the state of Tennessee. So if you would, tell us a little bit about the details, when will the school open? Where will it open? What grades will it be for? How many students do you anticipate being there? I know this is a lot of stuff moving quickly.
Schwenk: Sure. Our expectation is to open in the fall of 2024. So that gives us just over a year to get that school up and running and have a facility. Obviously, it’s going to be somewhere in Rutherford County.
Where it is specifically is going to be is a discussion we’ll have with the local educational agency and the district there making sure it’s in the best location so that all the students and families in Rutherford County could have some opportunity to come there. It’s a school of choice, meaning any kid that’s in Rutherford County can come to our school.
We’d start K-5, so it starts as elementary school. Growing by one grade per year. So we start K-5, and then it’s sixth grade and seventh grade, and so on. So if you came in the fifth grade, for example, you would be the original graduating class seven years down the road.
Leahy: If you came and if you’re listing right now, in Rutherford County, and if you have a child that is scheduled to enter kindergarten in the fall of 2024 or older than that, or finishing third grade right now, then you would then be a candidate to come and be part of this school in the fall of 2024.
Schwenk: Absolutely. And all are invited.
Leahy: That’s interesting, isn’t it? You got all of Rutherford County.
Schwenk: Oh, sure. Part of what’s interesting about classical schools in larger communities like Rutherford County is that we can literally get students from all over the county. And as a classical school where it’s really around words and literacy and conversation and the Socratic method.
I’ve always been fascinated with having a bunch of kids from a bunch of different areas come together to have conversations around rich text and great books. So yes, Rutherford County is a great place to start this work.
Leahy: How many students do you anticipate when you open in the fall of 2024 K-5?
Schwenk: 340. And we don’t think that’s going to be an issue for Rutherford County. The way that works is if you’re interested in coming to the school, there’s a process where you apply and the application is as simple as, giving us information because it’s not a gleaning process. You just come in if you want to be there.
If there are more than three 340, which we would anticipate, we have what is called a public lottery. And so for example, if we had 400 kids sign up you do a lottery where people can come and watch it and the first 340 are in, and then the 341 is the first on the waiting list.
Leahy: Here’s the important question. When will parents be able to start applying? To be part of this school in the fall of 2024?
Schwenk: It would be late in 2023 or early 2024 is usually when that process would open up.
Leahy: The latter part of this year is when you’ll begin the process.
Leahy: Don’t rush off to the website today.
Schwenk: You can look if you like.
Leahy: You can look at the website. But don’t rush in because the process will begin late. 2023 or early 2024.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Phil Schwenk” by Northwest Ohio Classical Academy. Background Photo “Students in Class” by Max Fischer.