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March 25, 2014 


For Immediate Release


Contact: John Crooks

(865) 637-3227 ext. 119




Emerald Charter Schools on Tuesday unveiled a description of its application to launch a public charter school – Emerald Academy – in the fall of 2015. Emerald Charter Schools, a nonprofit begun by Emerald Youth Foundation, will submit the complete application to Knox County Schools for the proposed school by April 1.


Steve Diggs, president, Emerald Charter Schools’ board of directors and executive director, Emerald Youth Foundation, presented the plan at a community meeting. More than 75 people attended the meeting, included a number of prospective students and their families. 


Since January, Emerald Charter Schools gathered feedback from parents, business leaders, educators and community members through a series of public meetings. The input is being incorporated into the application.


Emerald Academy will be a K-8 college prep and career-readiness school. A guiding principle will be that every child can achieve at high levels and succeed in high school and college. All plans for the school will be done with that principle in mind, including calling youth “scholars” instead of “students.”


Members of the Board of Directors of Emerald Charter Schools are: Renda Burkhart, Founder & President, Burkhart & Company, P.C.; Guille Cruze, Entrepreneur, Self-Employed; Steve Diggs, Executive Director, Emerald Youth Foundation; Randy Gibson, COO & General Counsel, Lawler-Wood; Ed Hedgepeth, Principal-in-Residence, TNLEAD; Tim McLemore, Attorney & President, Gentry, Tipton, & McLemore, P.C.; Alvin Nance, Executive Director/CEO, Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation; Sherra Robinson, Outreach Director, Western Heights Dental; and Danielle South, Director of Public Policy & Education, Knoxville Chamber.


Diggs said Tuesday that any student who resides in Knox County will be eligible to attend the K-8 school, and Emerald Academy will be a demonstration model for Knox County Schools. The scholars will learn in the same building with consistent leadership for nine years. Emerald Academy will share lessons learned with Knox County Schools to ensure a strong, two-way working relationship.


Personalized instruction will be at the core of the school. Emerald Academy will provide enrichment to scholars who need to be challenged and extra instruction to those who need more assistance. Emerald Academy will:

• Allow scholars to contact teachers by phone after hours.

• Provide scholars with a 90-minute period four days each week to focus on their individual needs.

• Employ experienced staff to support scholars with special needs, English language learners, and at-risk scholars.


Emerald Academy will have a longer school day and longer school year, providing scholars more time in the classroom:

• The school day will be from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm four days per week and 8:00 am - 2:30 pm one day per week.

• The school year will be 190 days.


Emerald Academy’s environment will be structured and focused, including silent class transitions and uniforms. Scholars will wear affordable uniforms, and staff will dress in professional business attire.


A culture of high expectations will be present. Parents will be expected to:

• Sign a contract of commitment and held accountable to it.

• Attend an annual scholar and family orientation.

• Participate in parent conferences throughout the year. 


Emerald Academy will have a high expectation of itself, as well. The following goal will be included in the charter school application: By the end of the first charter period (a 10-year charter contract) Emerald Academy will be a “reward” school, as measured by Tennessee’s accountability system. As a “reward” school, Emerald Academy’s achievement will be in the top five percent for state assessments with no significant gaps in achievement.


About Emerald Charter Schools: Emerald Charter Schools is a new non-profit organization that will manage the proposed public charter school, Emerald Academy. Emerald Charter Schools is a separate, non-sectarian organization started by Emerald Youth Foundation, which has a longstanding track record working with Knoxville’s inner-city children, teens and young adults. Accountable to state and federal academic standards, public charter schools are independently operated public schools that are tuition-free and open to every student who wishes to enroll. 




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