Live from Music Row, Wednesday 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 Rutherford County School Board Chairman Tammy Sharpe to the newsmaker line to celebrate the decision to allow American Classical Education Charter School in the county.
Leahy: On the newsmaker line right now, our very good friend, Tammy Sharpe, the chairman of the Rutherford County School Board. Good morning Tammy.
Sharpe: Good morning.
Leahy: Congratulations. Good news to report. Last night you made a decision about the American Classical Education Charter School application in Rutherford County. It passed five to two. Tell us about that vote last night.
Sharpe: It’s a great thing for our students for choice and choice for our parents. It’s a great thing for taxpayers. Rutherford County seems to be currently the “it” county and the donut ring around Davidson County and we are literally scheduled to have about 7,000 more students come to our area between now and 2026, and we are already busting at the seams.
So I think my board member saw it as a way of a partnership and a relationship with someone who wants to come in and provide the money upfront for the brick-and-mortar. That’s something that taxpayers don’t have to pay and help us because our county is in debt.
We just went to the county commission and asked for $160 million for three annexes, and those annexes are really only going to get students out of portables on those school campuses. We’re excited. It’s a different curriculum.
It’s not for everyone. But we had Springs that I have a very good relationship with because they’re going to have our students, they’re going to have our kids either first and then come to us in the high school. So I wanna have a good relationship with them.
And as an elected official, if you live in my zone, whether your children are homeschooled, whether you go to private schools, whether you go to one of our magnet schools or you go to one of the public charter schools, you’re still one of my constituents and I’m gonna represent them.
Leahy: And by the way, congratulations to you, Tammy, for your leadership in making this happen. Last year it was turned down, there was a board election, and now there are more open-minded members of the school board, a five to two win, and your leadership played a big role in that five to two win. So congratulations to you personally for your leadership in this, Tammy Sharpe.
Sharpe: Thank you. But I think it’s always a group effort because times are changing. We have some younger people on the board now. I think I’m the second or the oldest one, when before I was one of the youngest ones, and I’m in the last year of my fifties. I just celebrated my birthday earlier this month.
Leahy: Happy birthday.
Sharpe: Thank you. I’m gonna celebrate all month. (Leahy chuckles) We now have three school board members who have young children in the school system that are young and they’re elementary, middle, and high school.
So I think there’s more attention to detail. And they’re digging in and looking at other options because of how our county is growing and You know how the influx of people from other states are coming here, so they want a choice.
And I think Dr. Sullivan has played a big role, although he probably, if you ask him, is not supportive of this, other than the board wanted it. He is very willing to try new things and do things that, that we haven’t done before.
Leahy: He’s the director of the Rutherford County schools.
Sharpe: Yes. He is a director, and he was appointed in June of last year. So since last year, we’ve had a director of schools, and then we’ve had three new school board members.
Leahy: Now, the Rutherford County American Classical Education Charter School will open up in the fall of 2024. I think their plan is to start out K-5 and then add one greater a year. Is that correct?
Sharpe: That is correct, and they are slated for the area that I represent. That’s Laverne and Smyrna. It’s still open. We’re so densely populated on the north end. We’ve got 51 schools in the entire county, and half of them are at capacity or over capacity.
That’s why we’re planning on building the annexes. We literally have students in what were storage closets. We’ve pulled books, or whatever was in the storage closet out, and some of the schools have purchased or rented public storage, and whatever was in there, they put that in the storage because we’re just busting at the seams.
Every year, between May and August, we get, on average, about 1,000 to 12,000, 13,000 new students that come into our area over the summer. And this past year, they didn’t stop. They usually stop around Labor Day because if you have someone from the East or the West Coast, they assume that we don’t go to school until after Labor Day.
So they start trickling in after Labor Day. This year it didn’t stop. Stewarts Creek Elementary is still getting one to two students a day, and some of them are moving from Davidson County because the property taxes and the cost of living in Davidson County have obviously gone up.
And so they can come and have a better school system and have more choices here. It’s not Nashville, but you’re close to Nashville. They can go to Nashville. They can commute if they want to and they can probably buy a large house or a larger house than what they had in Davidson County for the same money.
Leahy: The other good news is on this. It looks like it is to open in the fall of 2024. This is just great news for Rutherford County parents and students. It’s a classical curriculum. And I think our very good friend, Phill Schwenk, who is, who’s been the principal of a number of charter schools and classical charter schools previously with lots of experience, great guy. I think he’s likely to be the guy to be the principal there. I think that’s great news for Rutherford County. Your thoughts, Tammy Sharpe.
Sharpe: Oh, I absolutely hope he is. I’ve met him on numerous occasions. He sent an email to us to address some comments that were at the last school board meeting about the 1776 curriculum. And that man has a heart for students.
Leahy: He sure does.
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 “Tammy Sharpe” by Tammy Sharpe.