Atlanta school board says no to rapper Pitbull's new charter school

The Atlanta school board voted Monday evening to reject applications from three new charter schools looking to open in the city, including one with ties to the rapper Pitbull. 

The schools include SLAM Academy, part of a growing network of charter schools focused on sports supported by Pitbull; Atlanta Schools of the Arts; and Harriet Tubman School of Science and Technology, which would focus on computer science. 

Charter schools are publicly funded but operate independently of traditional public schools. 

In recommending the denial of the applications, district officials cited various issues including insufficient knowledge of charter school laws and, in the case of SLAM Academy, an over-reliance on an outside management company. 

Atlanta Public Schools had previously declined to release detailed information on the proposed schools in advance of the board vote, saying the Georgia Open Records Act allows the district to keep “sealed proposals” private until the board takes action. 

Kamaria Finch, an education consultant and founder of the proposed Harriet Tubman School of Science and Technology, said the school would provide a much-needed alternative for families in Atlanta’s West End. The school’s board includes people with MBA’s from top schools, and the school had lined up support from Atlanta technology companies and local nonprofits. 

“There are so many kids, particularly kids of color, who area being left behind” in terms of computer science, Finch said. “I’m shocked they would deny the school especially when there’s such a great need in that neighborhood.” 

Finch said she intended to move forward with plans for the Harriet Tubman School of Science and Technology, possibly seeking state authorization or reapplying to the Atlanta school board. More than 100 parents have already submitted applications for their children, she said. 

SLAM Academy board chair Charlene Ellis said the school planned to appeal the denial to the state. There’s a need for the kind of interactive lessons the school would provide, she said. 

“We really want to bring that here as a new, innovative way to close the achievement gap,” she said.

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