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University of Memphis faculty signals displeasure with Relay deal

University of Memphis Faculty Senate President Reginald Green counts senators' votes in support of drafting a resolution raising concerns about the school's proposed partnership with Relay Graduate School during Tuesday's meeting.
University of Memphis Faculty Senate President Reginald Green counts senators' votes in support of drafting a resolution raising concerns about the school's proposed partnership with Relay Graduate School during Tuesday's meeting.
Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN

The University of Memphis Faculty Senate Tuesday signaled its strong displeasure over a tentative deal between the university and Relay Graduate School of Education to offer an alternative teacher licensure program that would send teachers into some of Shelby County’s most challenging schools.

The senate passed two resolutions – in a 14-13 vote and a 23-1 vote with two abstentions- expressing concern that the university’s administration failed to consult the Senate on its negotiations with Relay, and for failing to involve the university’s own College of Education in the design of the Relay program.

Relay is a non-profit organization that is rapidly expanding to cities across the country with its non-traditional path to teacher licensing.

Faculty Senate President Reginald Green said he will send the two motions to university President David Rudd on Wednesday. Relay officials wouldn’t comment to Chalkbeat about its plans, and attempts to reach Rudd Tuesday evening were unsuccessful.

Rudd has said that the university’s traditional teacher prep program provides only about 10 to 15 percent of the teachers in Shelby County Schools.

“We need to do more,” he told the Commercial Appeal recently.

Through an open records request Chalkbeat TN obtained a copy of Relay’s 448-page application with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The program plans to offer 11 new programs that cover elementary education, middle grades, biology and chemistry, to name a few. The program will involve residential and distance learning and tuition will be $35,000.

Graduates would have to agree to teach in Shelby County’s lowest-performing schools.

Read Relay’s application here:

Correction: This article has been updated to accurately report language in the University of Memphis Faculty Senate resolutions. The resolutions “expressed concern” about the issues describe above, but did not “condemn” the administration, as originally reported.

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