Editor’s note: Gateway University Charter School was ordered to shut down a year after a Chalkbeat investigation into the Memphis high school found the administration falsified grades, improperly employed uncertified teachers, and awarded credits for a geometry class that did not exist. Find other articles in this series here.
Leaders of a Memphis charter high school requested that the state board of education overturn the local district’s vote to close the school.
The appeal is Gateway University Charter School’s last chance to remain open. State board staff will make a recommendation to the state Board of Education after a hearing, and members will then vote to uphold or overturn the decision to close the 150-student high school.
Shelby County Schools voted in late January to shut down Gateway after the school year ends in May, following a seven-month investigation into the northeast Memphis charter school. The investigation found that the school’s leaders mismanaged the school and intentionally misled the district.
Read our in-depth investigation into Gateway University here, which was first published in June.
A hearing with the state Board of Education is set for Feb. 19, according to a Gateway representative.
“We have promised our students, parents, faculty, staff, and community supporters that upon the SCS final vote… we would continue the fight to keep our charter and keep our students together,” Gateway’s leader Sosepriala Dede said in a statement. “This next step of pursuing the appeals process reflects the desire for GU to keep that promise.”
In the appeal, Gateway University leaders claim the school did not violate its charter agreement and was not given due process by Shelby County Schools, and therefore deserves to stay open. The argument is the same as the presentation Dede gave to Memphis board members prior to their vote to close the school.
Shelby County Schools’ investigation found that the school gave out grades for classes that did not exist, hired an employee who did not clear a background check, and had an inactive governing board. The district was not immediately available for comment on Gateway’s appeal.
Outside of the investigation, Gateway has a low academic standing. It was the only school to score below the district’s threshold for charter schools to remain in good standing, according to the district’s recent scorecard data.
Since the first charter school opened in Tennessee in 2003, the state board has overturned 15 out of 72 school board decisions to approve, revoke, or renew a charter. Gateway’s appeal was submitted on the same day as the state board’s vote to uphold Shelby County Schools’ decision to close 10-year-old City University Boys Charter School.
You can read Gateway University’s appeal in full below: