2023 Tennessee Charter School Award Winners Announced

December 1, 2023

Contributors to Tennessee’s Charter School Landscape 
Honored at the 2023 Annual Conference

Memphis, TENN. — Nov. 20, 2023 — The Tennessee Charter School Center (TCSC) proudly acknowledged its outstanding Charter School Champions during a Gala Celebration at its Annual Conference at the Westin Memphis Beale Street last month on October 27. The anniversary event not only commemorated two decades of public charter schools in Tennessee, but also symbolized ten years of unwavering support from TCSC as the state’s charter school support organization.

Each year, the TCSC identifies and honors individuals who have displayed exceptional commitment, dedication, and innovation in shaping the future of charter schools in Tennessee. 

The 2023 Champion Award Winners are:

Teacher of the Year: 
Jarmeisha Gladney
Soulsville Charter School
Memphis, TN

Administrator of the Year: 
LaKendra Butler
STRIVE Collegiate Academy
Nashville, TN

Advocate of the Year: 
Dr. Edna Varner
Public Education Foundation
Chattanooga, TN 

School of the Year: 
Intrepid College Preparatory Charter School
Nashville, TN

Community Impact Project of the Year: 
Memphis School of Excellence
Verizon Innovative Learning Schools
Memphis, TN

  Policy Champion of the Year: 
Senator Bo Watson (Hixson/Hamilton County, TN)

Expressing gratitude for the Administrator of the Year award, LaKendra Butler of STRIVE Collegiate Academy remarked, “I am always honored when others see and recognize my hard work. Thank you to every leader who has poured into me, every adult who has allowed me to learn alongside them/lead them, and every family who has given me the opportunity to serve your child. I am truly grateful!”

Founding charter organizations were also recognized as Champions, for their pivotal role in establishing the Tennessee Charter School Movement within their communities and significantly contributing to the success and growth of charter students across the state.

  • Ivy Academy – Chattanooga
  • Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy – Chattanooga
  • Circles of Success Learning Academy – Memphis
  • Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering – Memphis
  • Smithson Craighead Academy – Nashville
  • Emerald Academy – Knoxville

“These outstanding individuals and schools have demonstrated unparalleled commitment and excellence in shaping the landscape of charter schools in Tennessee,” said Dr. Maya Bugg, CEO of the Tennessee Charter School Center. “The awards ceremony is our opportunity to celebrate, but also underscore our champions’ significant contributions and investments among the charter school community.”

This summer, the latest study from the National Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that Tennessee public charter schools are succeeding in raising expectations and closing achievement gaps. 

Tennessee is one of the top states in the nation for charter school reading and math gains. Public charter school students are demonstrating greater academic growth in math and English language arts than their counterparts in non-charter schools on average. This academic growth equals an additional month and a half of learning each year for Tennessee’s public charter school students as compared to their traditional school peers. 

In 2023, public charter schools earned top TVAAS scores at significantly higher rates than other types of public schools statewide. Specifically, 63% of charter schools earned a 4 or a 5 growth score compared to 38% of traditional public schools.

“Tennessee Charter Schools are some of the fastest-improving in the nation – making historic gains in the national rankings and in the opportunities we are creating for students. Charters disproportionately serve more students of color and economically disadvantaged students. Expanding charter options in Tennessee ensures that more students, particularly those from underserved communities, have access to an excellent education.” said Dr. Bugg, CEO of the Tennessee Charter School Center. 

Held to a higher standard of accountability than traditional public schools, but with the benefit of  added autonomy that puts local school leaders and teachers in charge, Tennessee’s public  charter schools are empowered to create a challenging and focused learning environment for  students, while giving parents even more direct and meaningful opportunities to participate in  their children’s education. 

The Tennessee Charter School Center (TCSC) is a statewide charter school support organization. TCSC is committed to advancing the educational outcomes for all students via access to high-quality, public school options. Our mission is to support quality and cultivate innovation in public education while serving as an advocate on behalf of public charter schools.

The Tennessee Charter School Center (TCSC) is the first charter school support organization in the country that simultaneously creates and advocates on behalf of high-quality charter schools and the students and families they serve. Its vision is for all students in Tennessee to have access to a high-quality public education. Regardless of where they live, Tennessee students must have the opportunity to attend a public school that prepares them for success in the post-secondary education, college, or career of their choosing.