Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President invests in Nashville's top charter public school; Project Reflect's Smithson Craighead Academy lands $225,000 for middlle school

Two days before his State of the Union Address, President Obama's administration awarded a $225,000 grant for the start up of Project Reflect's charter middle school in Nashville. It opens this fall.

The non-profit's Smithson Craighead Academy still will need to come up with a $2.4 million operating budget, which will mostly be taken from public per pupil spending in Metro of $8,176. A charter school is a public school, and per pupil spending follows the student there.

The purpose of the start-up funds from the federal government is to pay for items that the regular annual budget would not cover, such as a school full of furniture, brand new books and supplies in every subject area for 300 kids, a lab or two full of computers, sports equipment for the whole physical education program, etc.

Project Reflect submitted an application for the funding a while back.

In his speech last night to Congress, Obama cited charter schools as one of his education priorities to rescue children from failing, regular public schools. Metro Nashville Schools have failed to meet No Child Left Behind Act standards for the past five years.

Charter schools represent more efficient spending of public school dollars with better results for children who have been left behind. Smithson Craighead in its five years has recorded the fifth highest achievement scores in the school district. The school is under the umbrella of Project Reflect, a non-profit organization headed by Sister Sandra Smithson of Nashville. She is a Catholic nun and native of Nashville.

Before charter schools were allowed in Tennessee earlier this decade, Smithson and her natural sister, Tennessee Hall of Fame teacher Mary Craighead, ran a summer and after-school program to catch children up who were left behind in Metro public schools.

After legislation authorizing charter schools, the sisters opened a K-4 charter public school. Ms. Craighead died earlier this year. But she knew of the plans to open the middle school this fall. Plans now are in the works to open Nashville's first charter public high school under Project Reflect.

As the new director of the board for development(fundraising) at Project Reflect, I will be heading a new campaign to raise money and public support under the cause of "Saving Our Public Schools." It has been distinct privilege to have been involved with the cause behind Project Reflect since 1997. My new position is unpaid.

Read more about how charter schools can serve as a point of reform for public education spending tomorrow in my column at

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