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Black education advocacy group hires new Tennessee director

The Black Alliance for Educational Options, a national group that advocates for vouchers and charter schools, has hired Mendell Grinter, its former Kentucky director, to lead its operations in Tennessee.

Mendell Grinter
Mendell Grinter

Grinter, 24, began his new Memphis-based job on Wednesday. Prior to running the group’s Kentucky branch, he worked with StudentsFirst, another education advocacy organization.

“There’s a lot of work to do in Tennessee to ensure that our communities have access to high-quality educational options,” Grinter said.

He replaces Jennifer Littlejohn, who resigned in February to run her own public relations firm shortly before the organization held its national symposium in Memphis.

Local education advocates welcomed Grinter to Memphis. “I see Mendell and Tennessee BAEO setting the standard for educating, engaging and mobilizing the most critical organization in the communities where we serve — the church,” said Tosha Downey, advocacy director for Teacher Town USA, an organization that works with charter schools and the state’s Achievement School District. “Once he leverages the clergy in the city to advocate for education reform in Tennessee, then we will know that we have turned the corner for transforming education for children in this state.”

BAEO is based nationally in Washington, D.C. Locally, it was heavily involved in the often contentious matching process in which the state-run Achievement School District took over underperforming Memphis schools and authorized charter operators to manage them as publicly funded but independently operated schools.

BAEO organized several meetings between community members and charter officials to discuss the future of Memphis schools. In recent months, the group has held informational sessions near schools vulnerable for state intervention.

Correction, Oct. 11, 2016: Grinter’s age was incorrect in a previous version of this story.

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