The potential collaboration between Shelby County Schools and Tennessee’s Achievement School District in a turnaround plan for one low-performing Memphis school has the support of the charter operator it would oust.
Scholar Academies stands ready to proceed with its conversion of Raleigh-Egypt Middle School this year as planned, but also is working with both districts to ensure the best solution, according to a statement issued by the network on Wednesday.
“We are committed to moving forward in the best interest of students and families, even if that is not in the best interest of our organization,” the statement says.
The network’s response was in reaction to Superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s presentation Tuesday evening to the Shelby County school board outlining his discussions with ASD Superintendent Malika Anderson. As an alternative to transitioning the middle school to the ASD and converting it to a charter as planned, the two leaders have discussed making it an Innovation Zone school operated by Shelby County Schools but funded with money secured by the state-run district.
The support of Scholar Academies, which is in the process of transitioning both Raleigh-Egypt Middle and Caldwell-Guthrie Elementary into the ASD, lends more backing to the alternative plan. But that plan, which has not been formally recommended by Hopson, is far from implementation. School board members gave it a cool response and expressed concern about reversing course at this late stage.
Leaders of Scholar Academies say they are just as willing to stay the course.
“We have trained a school director, hired teaching staff, planned building renovations for Raleigh-Egypt Middle, and implemented our school readiness protocol to ensure the school is on track to open in August 2016,” the statement said.
The two superintendents were brought to the table by competing plans for the middle schoolers by both districts. Because Raleigh Egypt Middle is one of the state’s lowest-performing schools, the ASD announced in December it would take control and authorized Scholar Academies as the school’s charter operator. In response, Shelby County’s school board voted to reconfigure the grades at nearby Raleigh Egypt High to absorb the middle schoolers and retain students — and the funding that goes with them.
In its statement, Scholar Academies asked if it’s in the best interest of students and families to divide already limited resources between two neighboring schools that serve the same grades.
“If there is a viable opportunity to put Raleigh-Egypt Middle school in the iZone and remove the 6-8 grades from Raleigh-Egypt High School, we are willing to support both the ASD and SCS in creating that opportunity for kids,” the statement said.
Under the joint plan, Shelby County Schools would have full autonomy on hiring decisions to make Raleigh-Egypt Middle an iZone school. The district also would have access to the 22 employees already hired by Scholar Academies.
Mendell Grinter, state director for Tennessee Black Alliance for Educational Options, said parents win with the joint plan.
“Parents can feel comfortable that the school could stay within Shelby County Schools with a proven model,” he said. “We’ve been talking for months now about how they should be working together and not be in competition.”