This week, the ASD is holding a series of public meetings at schools targeted for takeover in Shelby County. They were not welcomed and faced strong community opposition. On the north side of town, parents and teachers protested the ASD takeover at Raleigh Egypt High School. At American Way Middle School in south Memphis, the audience shouted down ASD charter school representatives forcing them off the stage. Then last night at the Shelby County School Board meeting, so many people spoke against the ASD school takeovers that public comments were limited to 90 seconds. More opposition to ASD takeovers is expected at the upcoming meetings scheduled for later this week.
Parents Don't Trust the ASD
Parents have seen the ASD's dismal record on student achievement and they want better for their children. The new unified Shelby County School system has shown that is a stronger district and capable of raising student achievement. The citizens of Shelby County are insisting that their school system be given an opportunity to teach their children without the ASD's interference.
ASD charter schools have WORSE test scores than Shelby County School
ASD schools are now scoring even LOWER than before the takeover
ASD plays games in selecting schools for its priority list:
- Click HERE to see how the ASD manipulated its own numbers.
- See HERE how the ASD literally changed report card grades to a new scale to make failing students pass (*A=90-100, B=71-89, C=59-70, D=47-58, F=0-46).
- Click HERE to see how the TDOE "messed up" the lists of failing, priority, & focus schools and was called out by a district.
- Click HERE to see how the ASD cherry picked schools and manipulated data last year. Is the ASD targeting the "top of the bottom" schools to try and "cream" the best for their portfolio?
- Click HERE to see why American Way Middle shouldn’t be on the ASD list at all.
- Green Dot's failure in California
- YES Prep's cronyism and connection to the ASD Superintendent, Chris Barbic. Coincidentally, Barbic is being sued for unfairly picking his YES Prep charter chain to operate in the ASD.
- Libertas' non-existent track record
- KIPP's method of kicking out students before TCAP testing
- A former Memphis KIPP teacher speaks up about the high teacher turnover and cult-like environment.
Parents Don't Want to be Disenfranchised by the ASD
Another problem that these communities are having trouble digesting is the loss of elected representation. No one on the school board represents the ASD schools. Public parents demand to have an elected official to turn to when they or teachers have concerns. They pay taxes for public education and they want elected school board members to have authority over their public schools. But instead, their tax dollars are paying for charter schools. Sounds a lot like taxation without representation where public dollars are controlled by private interests. Parents don't like putting their children in the hands of those who are there (and let's be honest) because their profit potential is huge.
Parents appreciate House Representative Antonio Parkinson and Shelby County School Board Member, Stephanie Love, for speaking up for the teachers, students, and communities at the Raleigh Egypt High meeting. That is elected leadership representing their constituents. We hope other elected officials join their efforts.
Parents Don't Like the ASD's Back Room Dealings
A Memphis blogger talked to Stephanie Love about this "hostile takeover" and Love felt the community was being left out of the process. “People are meeting behind closed doors about our children and our communities who don’t know anything about our children, don’t ask us question about what’s best for our children and our communities.” Even though Love is the elected school board member for Raleigh-Egypt's district, she had never been included in the meetings. The blogger goes on to say that Love "would rather see those schools being taken over included in [Shelby County School's] iZone. Love agreed that these schools need extra support but she urges support be given within the current framework of SCS." Unfortunately, this is not an option with the ASD because the ASD has made it clear that it works with charter school operators, not Shelby County School Board nor their constituency. And they are more interested in making money than being popular with the voters. A recent Commercial Appeal article said, "State Rep. Antonio Parkinson suggested it was time to follow the money, noting that charters aren’t interested in taking over small schools, suggesting they don’t offer enough cash."
Parents Don't Want the ASD to Say Goodbye to Teachers & Staff
When these communities realize that their school's teachers and staff will likely be replaced with unqualified, inexperienced staff, they're not so keen on the idea. They like their teachers. They are invested in the community. One news station reported how Green Dot brought some of their current ASD students to talk to people at Raleigh Egypt High School, but one of the Green Dot students admitted that the staff at her high school had changed drastically when the ASD took over, saying "probably 10 teachers that I recognize from last year" are still at her school this year.
Even though Superintendent Dorsey Hopson co-authored a letter in the local newspaper just a few months ago with ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic, Hopson is now saying he is opposed to giving the schools to the ASD. In fact, the SCS Board is considering a moratorium on ASD takeovers, citing that it is achieving better results with its own iZone schools, which pour more resources and qualified teachers into struggling schools.
Parents Don't Forget the ASD's Broken Promises
- Children in Memphis’ Coleman neighborhood are not allowed to attend their neighborhood ASD school that is blocks away from their home. Despite the law that said ASD must take zoned neighborhood children, children are being bussed an hour away to another ASD school across town because Aspire Charter Chain says they have no capacity for them. But here’s the thing: Coleman Elementary had 515 students in 2012-13, but now they are maxing the school out at 380 students as a new ASD school? This is not acceptable. Parents do not want their children riding on a school bus 2 hours a day or sent to a failing school across town. This is not good for children. Some speculate it is about money and raising the scores of the school across town.
- Parents were told that two veteran charter school operators, KIPP and Freedom Prep were chosen by the ASD to takeover their schools. But these charter chains recently decided to pull out of the ASD market in Memphis. They said it was to focus on their current schools but at least one of them is eyeing new charter schools in Nashville leaving parents to wonder if it truly about children or about profits.
- And the biggest broken promise of all... our schools taken over by the ASD aren’t anywhere near reaching the top 25% of the state like ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic has repeatedly promised parents.
Memphis isn't the only pocket of resistance. Nashville is simmering, too. This strongly worded press release below from East Nashville United shows that parents are not willing to give in. They clearly do not like back-room deals being made regarding their children or their community's schools between politicians and venture capitalists:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: John Haubenreich
October 28, 2014
EAST NASHVILLE UNITED BLASTS REGISTER’S INGLEWOOD DECEPTION
Nashville, Tenn. -- East Nashville United is calling on Jesse Register to back away from his back room deal to hand over the management of Inglewood Elementary School to KIPP, a local charter school operator.
On September 24th, Nashville Schools Director Jesse Register hosted a community meeting at Inglewood Elementary to discuss his recently announced East Nashville schools’ plan. Nearly every parent at the meeting voiced unbridled support for their zoned school, prompting Register to tell the Nashville Scene that he was not inclined to hand over Inglewood to KIPP.
“It sounds like this community does not want this school to convert to a charter school. So, we need to hear that,” said Register. “I would be very hesitant to recommend a conversion here. There are some other places where a conversion might work, but I don’t think so in this community.”
On Monday, however, it was revealed that Register had already made a deal with KIPP for Inglewood Elementary, despite repeated assertions to the community that “there was no plan” and statements to Inglewood Elementary parents confirming that he was not going to convert the school to a charter. Recently released emails confirm that the district’s central office had already settled on Inglewood as a location for the next KIPP location, weeks before Register announced his 3rd Way Plan to the school board.
“We made it very clear to Dr. Register that we were not in favor of a charter conversion and he appeared to listen,” says Jai Sanders, an Inglewood parent and one of the founding members of East Nashville United. “But now it’s clear that the fix was already in to flip our school to KIPP and that his meeting with parents was a charade.”
Although East Nashville United has repeatedly signaled its support for the existing charter schools in the Stratford and Maplewood clusters, John Haubenreich, the chair of the parent-led group, affirmed yet again that his group’s opposition to the district’s dealings is not over the role of charter schools in public education.
“Had the parents at Inglewood expressed any interest in handing over their school to KIPP, we would not oppose a charter conversion,” Haubenreich says. “But the parents made it clear that they did not want a charter to run their school. What they wanted--and still want--is for their zoned school to stay intact, only with MNPS providing it with the resources it needs to succeed.”
Haubenreich says he is mystified how Register could hedge his position after hearing from so many Inglewood parents.
“Our message all along has been that any East Nashville plan can be created only after listening to parents and educators,” he said. “We thought that’s the direction we were all headed, but now it appears we’re back to square one, fighting a cram-down scheme concocted in back rooms by people who don’t live in our neighborhoods and don’t have kids in our schools.”
Ruth Stewart, the vice chair of ENU, says that the recently released emails raise serious questions about whether Register has any plans to listen to the community task force. The task force, pushed for by East Nashville United, was supposed to help devise a plan by listening to parents and educators and researching the best options for each school. Stewart, however, says the recently released emails suggest that district officials and charter officials were already engaged in serious policy discussions well before anyone else knew an East Nashville plan was afoot.
“We were told over and over that there was no plan, but the emails show the exact opposite.” Stewart says. “Before the task force begins its work, we want to know details of this secret plan. We’re not sure what the point of having a task force is if the district is already making decisions behind closed doors, with no community input. Who knows what else they’ve already decided and haven’t told us about.”
"Parents and teachers, however, are not nearly as uninformed as county officials who are doing the Gates dirty work believe. In fact, they know how the charter school takeover cycle works. They know that first you need public schools isolated by years of neglect, segregation, and poverty--schools that everyone outside the affected communities would rather forget about. Memphis has an ample supply of these schools in the poorest neighborhoods, and politicians are eager to make them someone else’s responsibility.
These neighborhood schools make easy targets for profiteers and politicians convinced (or pretending to believe) that these public schools have low test scores because of lazy teachers, public bureaucracy, unconcerned parents, unions, or other reasons having nothing do with the reality of poverty, racism, or a sordid history of inequality.
I am glad they are among those who have been awakened to the threat to their neighborhood schools by corporate takeover, as they have decided to SKIP the KIPP and offer a loud NO to YES Prep and put a big red light in front of the Green Dot.
Frederick Douglass knew that power concedes nothing without a demand. It is time for Shelby County to concede what these teachers and parents demand, and that is nothing more or less than quality public schools for all children."