November 7, 2017
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
Parents looking for school choice options will want to take note of several upcoming information sessions.
Rutherford County Schools currently offers six choice programs that accept applications for students from anywhere within the county regardless of school zoning.
Those programs include Central Magnet School, Holloway High School, Homer Pittard Campus School, McFadden School of Excellence, Oakland High School’s International Baccalaureate program, and Thurman Francis Arts Academy.
Each program has specific admission requirements. To learn more about each program, continue reading below.
McFADDEN SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE
Info Night: Nov. 28 at 6 p.m.
How and when to apply: McFadden’s annual information night for prospective parents serves a multitude of purposes. During the session, McFadden principal Dr. Clark Blair outlines the application process and the testing phase, as well as how and when school officials go about informing parents of their decision.
Application process: Parents can pick up an application during the information session. Otherwise it’s posted online beginning Dec. 1. Completed applications are then accepted once the school reopens following winter break. School personnel typical screen as many as 300 potential kindergarteners for 60 available slots. Prospective students are tested and then screened at the end of January into the first week of February. The screening is used to measure a prospective student’s cognitive and academic ability for K-2, while 3-5 is an academic assessment that measures math, science, social studies and language scores. Blair said he informs parents of the decision in March.
What makes the school special: What separates McFadden from other elementary schools is the acceleration they try to achieve with all their students. The school has a plus-one philosophy according to Blair. “We try to take your child from where they are,” Blair said, “and try to help them grow and stretch. We talk about pushing toward failure and having some failures, but that’s good because we’re growing. So we move through the material faster and sometimes deeper.”
CENTRAL MAGNET SCHOOL
Info Night: Nov. 30 at 6 p.m.
How and when to apply: Applications will be available online beginning Nov. 30, which is the same evening the schools hosts its annual parent information night in the auditorium. The application process for Central opens Dec. 1 and closes Jan. 31 at 4 p.m.
Application process: Submission of an application does not guarantee acceptance, but once it has been processed, families will receive an email confirming its receipt. Applicants will be notified of their status – accepted, not eligible or waiting list – by mail no later than March 1.
What makes the school special: Central Magnet is the No. 1 ranked school in the state of Tennessee, according to the most recent rankings published by U.S. News & World Report. The publication also ranked Central the 10th best magnet school and the 37th best overall high school in the nation. Working in Support of Education also named Central as the 27th best school in nation for teaching personal finance and the fifth best in the midsize high school division nationwide. Central is one of the oldest schools in the county. The current building was opened in 1950 following a fire that destroyed the original structure. Central became the district’s first magnet school serving grades 6-12 in 2010.
THURMAN FRANCIS ARTS ACADEMY
Info Night: Dec. 4 at 6 p.m.
How and when to apply: Applications are available Dec. 1 and closes Jan. 31. The parent information night at Thurman Francis includes performances from the arts programs at the school. In addition to the paper application, prospective students need a teacher recommendation along with providing attendance records and tests scores from their current schools. Application information for kindergarteners is covered during the information night.
Application process: Thurman Francis an academic magnet school that specializes in arts programing for high achieving students. “They’re akin to what you might call gifted,” said Jeff McCann, principal at Thurman Francis. McCann said magnet students have IQ scores of 116, 118 and up. Every second grade student in the district is given a cognitive abilities test, which are IQ range scores, and McCann is looking for scores to be 116 and above in all three categories. Incoming kindergartners and first graders are given what McCann called a screener. It’s an early screening profile that provides three basic IQ related numbers.
What makes the school special: Since taking over as principal, McCann has looked to fill his classrooms with teachers who are outgoing, engaging, caring and are teaching for the right reasons. As an arts academy, it is not a surprise that Thurman Francis is one of the few elementary and middle schools to offer a strings program. “We’re very proud,” McCann said. “We performances every quarter for all our groups. We have a dance instruction program here. We have band and kids can start band earlier here than they can at other schools. We have a visual arts program. We have a pretty intense drama group here.”
OAKLAND HIGH SCHOOL’s INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE PROGRAM
Info Night: Jan. 11 at 6 p.m.
How and when to apply: The information meeting includes a tour of the school, a presentation that also includes a few words from current students and past IB graduates. Applications are available beginning Nov. 15 and the priority deadline is Feb. 15, 2018. The final deadline is March 15. Students must score above the 80th percentile in two reporting areas on the most recent nationally normed standardized test — TNReady, Explore, Stanford Achievement Test or the Iowa Test of Basic Skills — and have a GPA of 3.0 in core courses of English, math, science and social studies. Prospective students in Rutherford County are encouraged to apply their eighth grade year in order to participate in IB Preparatory courses during their freshmen and sophomore years at Oakland.
What makes the IB program special: Principal Bill Spurlock said Oakland High School offers prospective IB students a magnet-like program within the structure of a large public high school that provides all of its students an opportunity to participate in any number of highly competitive sports as well as top performing clubs and organizations. “What you see is a microcosm of society,” Spurlock said. “We all come together … to make a large comprehensive high school.”
HOMER PITTARD CAMPUS SCHOOL
Info Night: Contact school directly
How and when to apply: Campus School has an open year-round application process in which parents are encouraged to apply for kindergarten on or close to the child’s fourth birthday. “We have a waitlist,” said principal Dr. Sherry King, “so we go in date order.”
Application process: King said families are notified with a letter in late February or early March. There are typically anywhere from 200 to 250 prospective students on the waiting list for 40 new kindergarten slots. Younger siblings of current or past students are given priority registration and then in chronological order of applications received. “It’s kind of part of their birthday to come and apply,” King said. Once students are admitted, open spaces for new students are not typical until fourth grade, when the school adds 10 spots to meet state teacher / student ratios. The unfilled kindergarten applications roll forward for those spots, King said.
What makes the school special: Families are drawn to the legacy of Campus School — there’s a sense of history upon walking in the front doors — but what truly sets it apart from others is its longstanding partnership with MTSU. Its laboratory-like setting brings teachers-in-training to classrooms to observe and develop best practices. Every Campus School teacher has a residency candidate in their class twice a week. “They bring us innovation,” King said of Campus School’s relationship with the education department at MTSU. “It’s just a very special place.”
Info Night: In July or contact school directly
How and when to apply: Parents and guardians of prospective students are encouraged to contact the principal year-round to arrange for a private visit and tour of the school. Principal Sumatra Drayton interviews every prospective student as part of the admission process.
Application process: For students currently attending another Rutherford County school, parents or guardians need to request their zoned school to provide Holloway with the required documents listed on a referral form. Once all documents have been received the administration or staff will call to arrange for an in-person interview. For students moving to Rutherford County from another school district, Holloway requires transcripts from all previous schools as well as discipline and attendance records from the previously attended high schools.
What makes the school special: Unlike the traditional model of offering students seven credit-hours per school year, Holloway distinguishes itself by offering students an opportunity to enroll in eight credit-hours by year. Holloway students earn four credit-hours per semester by using what is known as a four-by-four block schedule, which allows students to complete their graduation requirements – 23 credit-hours – in just three years. The block schedule is appealing to students looking to graduate early and those who have fallen behind academically but want to graduate on time. With a total enrollment of fewer than 200 students, Holloway features a one to 15 ratio of teachers to students in classrooms on average.