Memphis charter school closes after one year because of issues with nonprofit status, enrollment

An elementary school near Raleigh operating under a Shelby County charter organization is closing after only one year.

Legacy Leadership Academy leaders decided to close after they were told by Shelby County Schools that it wasn’t in compliance with state law, district officials announced during a board meeting on Tuesday.

Specifically, the charter organization Legacy Leadership had lost its nonprofit status. Under state law, a charter operator has to be a nonprofit. The district would have recommended closure for the school in July had it not decided to close on its own, said Brad Leon, chief of strategy and performance management for the district.

Tamika Richmond, founder and executive director, said enrollment was the main reason she opted to close the school. Legacy’s enrollment hovered around 40 students, but the school needed twice that many to be financially viable.

“We made the very difficult decision because we were not able to forecast a sustainable future,” Richmond said. “For the future of our children and staff, we believe this decision will allow them to seek out other high quality options.”

Richmond said the nonprofit issues stemmed from not keeping up with tax forms. She said Lecagy gained its nonprofit status in 2015, but didn’t open its charter school until two years later.

“We needed to submit …forms showing that we didn’t have any employees and were not bringing in income,” Richmond told Chalkbeat. “Those forms were not submitted in a timely manner.”

She later clarified that Legacy had regained its nonprofit status, though that didn’t change the school closure decision.

“Once notified, we completed the necessary income documents,” Richmond said. “This process allows the Academy’s tax exempt status to be retroactively updated and become current. This misstep was an oversight on our part because we had not been advised in the early stages of creating the charter that we must file this form prior to becoming operational.”

Richmond said she has called her former students and worked with parents to find a nearby traditional or charter school.

This is the third charter school under oversight of the Memphis district to close this year. The other two were led by a Memphis-based charter network run by former mayor and Memphis City Schools superintendent Willie Herenton. Shelby County Schools now oversees 48 charter schools.

Legacy’s former school space, located at 3333 North Old Brownsville Road, will be filled by Gateway University High School next year.

“We’re excited to see another charter school have a second opportunity to benefit from our space,” Richmond said.