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Titusville community leaders working to block new Memphis charter school from opening in neighborhood

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 10:12 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A new charter school is looking to open doors in Birmingham after winning an appeal by the Alabama Public Charter Schools Commission.

The school was previously denied by the Birmingham Board of Education, but now they are planning to start an academy in the Titusville neighborhood with the approval from the state.

Titusville neighborhood leaders and one Birmingham city councilor told WBRC they are against Freedom Prep Charter School from opening because they have concerns about what it will do to Birmingham City Schools and to the students. Officials with Freedom Prep said they are hoping to build a relationship with the neighborhood leaders moving forward.

“We are sick and tired of people that don’t live here trying tell us what to do and what is best for us,” North Titusville Neighborhood Vice President Keith Williams said. “We live here, so we know what is best. We do not want this charter school in our community.”

Freedom Prep Academy is working to secure a building, with efforts to get the old Our Lady of Fatima School in Titusville.

“They applied for an application and the talk started around 2018, but they did not approach us as a neighborhood or a community until 2022,” South Titusville Neighborhood President Jason Freeman said. “That is completely unacceptable, so the transparency and communication is not there. We have full confidence in the Birmingham City Schools and we standby all our teachers and educators.”

“What happens with a charter school, you take the best and the brightest and they go there,” Birmingham City Councilor for District Six Crystal Smitherman said. “All that money and all that talent goes towards another school. That’s fine if you want to come to Birmingham, but you did not get the support of the community.”

Worried it will defund and strain Birmingham City Schools in the neighborhood, leaders said they are concerned for students and teachers. They said they have concerns over the new school’s criteria and academic standards.

“We have teacher of the year here,” North Titusville Neighborhood President Michael Broadnex said. “Good things are going on in our neighborhood. We have a teacher going for national teacher of the year. You don’t produce that with failing schools.”

“We are trying to keep our students in our school,” Vice President of Woodland Park Neighborhood Association Alvin Washington said.

Washington said the Titusville schools are already improving grades and scores of their current students.

“We do not need in this community, a charter school,” Washington said. “Once they enroll the students, then we lose that money. The money follows the child.”

Regional Director for Freedom Prep Academy, Justin Hampton, said they know the neighborhood has concerns.

“Around us not having reached out to them first,” Hampton said. “But, we have a strong community support base among some of the local organizations and non profits.”

But, Hampton said the school hopes to improve the relationship in the community.

“We recognize that the support of the community is integral to the success of the school,” Hampton said. “We fully understand the concerns that the community has. Our intent is to build those relationships. The next steps for us are to continue community outreach, awareness, community campaigns, and forums.”

Hampton said the charter school is open to the public and will not have entry fees.

“All we hope to do is provide another high quality option that parents can have the choice of attending,” Hampton said. “Not in anyway wanting to detract from schools that are serving children well. We just hope to come alongside schools that are preforming well and schools that are offering good options and other programs. We in no way want to detract from anything.”

The charter school plans to start classes in fall of next year if they can secure a building, but the Titusville neighborhood leaders plan to start a petition and hope to block the charter school from opening in their community.

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