Moving Right Along

Memphis Scholars Raleigh-Egypt Middle School is moving 16 miles away from it’s current location.  Though it promises to bus current students to the new location, officials chose to move the school upon learning that another school would be sharing it’s current location, thus putting a strain on resources.

 “Memphis Scholars strongly believes that this duplication of interventions is not in the best interest of students and families as it divides scarce resources between two schools.”

Read more here

Ballet Integration in a Memphis School Pays Off

Dunbar Elementary School was scheduled to close for good.  However, because of the successful integration of ballet at Dunbar; community supporters and instructors from New Ballet spoke en masse, resulting in the district allowing the school to remain open.

“The school board and administration learned while trying to close this school how valuable community partnerships can be.”

Read more here

Perfect Partnership

Shelby County Schools are hoping to open Boys & Girls Club locations in three Memphis schools.  While this is an excellent idea, the project will cost a great deal of money, and no one in the area wants to open the clubs to have them close due to lack of infrastructure.

“This would be a place not just for students, but for the entire neighborhood, as a way to bring families together.  For the students, having structured resources in the afternoon is going to help them to grow even better during the academic school today.”

Read more here

Get Paid

Khadesia Howell is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Memphis, TN native. With her degree in Hispanic Studies and pre-medicine, she strives to promote equality and inclusivity in all aspects of life, especially within the health fields. She now works in the Medical District of Memphis, TN

As a proud alum of Whitehaven High School, Khadesia Howell witnessed first-hand the hardships of students when it came to access to and awareness of resources around college readiness, standardized testing, financial aid, and other necessary tools that are needed for every student wanting to venture on to college post high school. Because of this, Howell created  “Get Paid: A Guide to Endless Opportunities”, a three-day event coming to  Memphis this summer.

“Get Paid: A Guide to Endless Opportunities” is a three-day event that will offer  educational, social, and financial equity to students in Memphis in low-economic neighborhoods/low-resourced schools. The event will include a free practice ACT, multiple interactive sessions on how to “Get Paid” and be successful in any venture you choose to pursue, as well as sessions on  personal finance, credit, race, and much more. By the end of the event, participants will have more access to resources earlier, at an earlier stage, equalizing the  playing field wherever their path may lead them.

“I planned this event in order to fill in the gap between education for academia and education for their futures,” says Howell. “There is a need for education that is focused around different avenues besides college and letting students of color know that there’s more to life than what they’ve been told and taught in school. I want them to start to have a voice and create a vision that is beyond the school walls.”

The expected outcome is that those who attend will have a better grasp on the next stages of life even if it just knowing what to do within the next six months. At least they can begin to see a vision for themselves. Howell is confident that students will leave the three-day event empowered and informed and knowing that there is a community that is rooting for them. Hopefully, this can begin talk throughout the community about giving students a voice outside the constraints of the school system and help them see the benefits of giving back to their communities.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

I thought it would be the career I retired from. Like many others, I wanted to give it twenty plus years and happily serve my city, my community and most importantly the students in such a capacity that is undeniably one of the greatest influences in a child’s life, point blank period. I would not even make it to half of that twenty years before “retiring” long before “official” retiring years. But my years in the classroom taught me several things:

1. Every child is indeed different. And they each have a different need from you the teacher.

2. There’s no way you can truly get it all in a 55-minute class period (I taught middle and high school) or a 7-8 hour school day.

3. Parents need us more than we think. Each day, they send their very best to us hoping we can partner with them in the growth and rearing of their child/ren.

4. When it comes down to the challenges of the educational system, I don’t blame anyone. Everyone has a hand and responsibility in this.

5. I applaud each teacher that still every day wakes up and embraces the truths of #1-3 and the harsh reality of #4. My heart goes out daily.

I’ve had the opportunity of meeting and working with some amazing teachers across this city and the entire country. Somewhere in the teacher hall of fame, they’re listed as rock stars for what they do in the lives of students daily. No amount of money could match up the contributions of teachers, and the impact is crossing the path of at least one great teacher could have or has on a child.

So from one lifelong educator to another, I salute all teachers. For your tireless efforts, enthusiastic mannerisms, and the undying passion for impacting the lives of students, please know that the work does not go unnoticed.

In times when it seems most dim and disheartening due to being seemingly overlooked, underpaid and unappreciated, I encourage you to remember the smiles that you put on faces and the seeds that you willingly sow into the lives of those who have no idea that one day they are going to look back and thank you for being, if nothing else, present in their life.

I would like to personally shout out all of my teachers who ever had the privilege of dealing with me. I was fortunate to have some progressive educators at Bethel Grove Elementary, Sherwood Middle, and Hillcrest High. It was Mrs. Brenda Lewis that comforted me the year my dad passed and helped me to make the huge adjustment of not having my father alive. What does that look like for a 10-year old? But it would be my Bethe Grove family that helped me maneuver through those beginning years and ensuring I continued down a road of academic excellence because my dad wouldn’t have it any other way. It was Mr. Norwood, my 7th grade English teacher, that would introduce me to the wonderful world of Literature through the lens of Anne Frank and the story of the Holocaust. In high school, it would be Mrs. Yvette Oliver-Robertson that introduced this new English curriculum called Pathways that brought the classroom learning experience alive to my peers and me. I remember English 10 Honors class being exciting, intriguing and finally challenging me enough to do more than talk in class. I am grateful for every seed sown, every conversation and hug, every push and even every “N’ in conduct that was well-deserved.

It’s those memories that I carry with me even now. And as an educator, it’s those pieces that I’ve tried to hold onto and make a part of my personal and professional brand as an Educator.

The crossing of paths with a charismatic teacher is priceless. The benefits are endless, and the impact is mountainous. Hats off to every person that has dedicated their life to empowering the minds of students. A week is not enough to honor what you do daily but hopefully, it’s at least an opportunity to say thank you and where would each of us be without teachers.


Cleaning House

Low-performing schools in Memphis’ turn-around district will experience significant staffing cuts.  If all goes as planned, upwards of 59 positions will be cut and restructuring of the district is scheduled for June 30th.

“For me, it seems like cutting any support staff is significant. The children are already coming out of turmoil in the community, with crime often a regular part of their lives, and teachers need help with addressing students’ emotional needs.” 

Read more here

Calling All Millennials

In an effort to attract millennial teachers in Tennessee, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) is actively seeking young teachers to educate high-needs students. The need is specifically in STEM classes and also diversity among teachers.

“By illustrating the positive impact that great teaching has on a community, we will show them that they have the power to change the future beyond the classroom.” 

Read more here

Don’t stop others from having school vouchers just because you don’t want one

Those damn vouchers. It’s the one education issue that departs me from the company of fellow school choice advocates. They’re with me on charter schools, but go ghost on publicly funded private school tuition.

The “I-don’t-think-public-money-should-go-to-private-schools” contingent is legion. They are absolute. And, in my opinion, they are in direct violation of their own progressiveness.

Enter my friend and colleague Beth Hawkins who wrote a blog post titled “A Voucher is a Voucher is a Voucher – And They’re All Wrong.” She calls it a rant, which is an apt description for a post in which she boils vouchers in acid and then arranges the bones to say “Hell No.”

Her prompt is Minnesota’s pending proposal for an “Opportunity Scholarship” that would fund private school tuition for low-to-middle income students. Given the shockingly poor outcomes for black and brown kids in our relatively well-resourced Twin Cities schools, I welcome anything that offers parents an alternative.

Beth isn’t a fan. At all.

“I have long opposed private school vouchers for many reasons–not least of which I think it’s morally wrong to give tax dollars to programs that can legally discriminate,” she says. “Against people like me, a gay woman. And against one of my children, who has an intellectual disability.”

We agree on that. Education should be about liberation, not discrimination.

Yet, we can’t fairly debate vouchers without a scan of real state voucher programs to see if the fears are sound.

Actually, a Voucher is not a Voucher – and some are good

Ironically, some charter supporters resort to making the same arguments that charter opponents make (i.e. “siphons” money from the public system, supports schools that discriminate, diminishes protections students have in district schools, etc.).

For her part, Beth argues “in the case of queer kids and kids with disabilities, taking a voucher to a private school means giving up the protection of the laws of the land that exist specifically to protect people whose needs are costly, inconvenient or uncomfortable.”

That would be bad if it were true.

Alas, most state voucher programs target tuition subsidies toward children in poverty and those with disabilities.

Here are a few examples:

Mississippi’s voucher program supports students with Dyslexia or speech-language impairment.

In Oklahoma, public school students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) can get a scholarship to attend private schools on the state’s approved list. To be approved schools must prove fiscal soundness, comply with anti-discrimination laws, and have fully credentialed teachers with more than 3 years experience.

Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship program offers subsidies for students with disabilities, military families, wards of the state, and students who live near “D” or “F” rated schools.

Ohio’s statewide program, EdChoice, pays for 60,000 low-income students in under-performing schools to attend private schools. Students with autism or other disabilities can receive larger subsidies depending on the severity of their disability.

Established in 1873, Maine has the nation’s oldest voucher program. As of 1980 religious schools are barred from participating. I don’t support that, but it’s an example of how safeguards can be installed to prevent faith-based, discriminatory “pray away the gay” programs.

These scholarships aren’t outliers. Indeed, they are the most common forms of vouchers (here’s a state-by-state comparison).

The Goose and the Gander

Beth says “We are talking about sending public money—which people of myriad creeds contribute, because way back when we decided we were one nation, indivisible—to institutions that may decide to flaunt civil rights.”

That argument is smothered in idealism about public schools, and steeped in dogma about private ones.

Truth is, America has never respected a “myriad” of creeds (travel ban anyone?); we have never been one nation; and living in Trump-world is obvious evidence we are only indivisible in the thinnest stretches of our imaginations. When exactly did “we” decide “we were one nation”?

Real talk, without vouchers in the picture we’re sending public money to institutions that “flaunt civil rights” all the time. I call those institutions “district schools.”

The evidence is in Beth’s piece. She relays a story about a traditional district school that “pushed out” her son due to an intellectual disability.

In another story she talks about a local school district that experienced a “suicide contagion” due to policies that were hostile toward LGBTQ students.

I could add to her stories. The district where my children attend school settled 15 serious claims of systemic racial discrimination with the federal government.

Not to be outdone, California has 99 school districts that had to settle discrimination cases with the feds.

Get this: The democratically elected school boards of Texas were under suspicion of working with a powerful law firm that train education leaders on how to discriminate against children with disabilities.

I could go on.

If the possibility of discrimination is cause for block funding for educational programs we might as well shut down public schools and start over. It’s that bad, and it’s the reason so many families want alternatives.

Yes, there are valid arguments against vouchers. Most can be addressed by the way voucher laws are written. But, it’s simply unfair to summarily disregard the aspirations of marginalized children and parents who currently make good use of public funds to access educational programs they want and need. They matter. They deserve choices. It’s their lives on the line and God bless them for actively seeking better for themselves.

For me, prioritizing their rights and their self-determination over the whims and privilege of voucher opponents is the truly moral thing to do.

This post was written by Christopher Stewart. To read more of Chris’s stories, please visit Citizen Ed

Charter Feature: Supremacy Sports Academy

Sports + Education

Memphis, Tennessee is filled with sports fans, sports players, and sports teams, from the NBA, MLB, and the NFL. Therefore it is not surprising to see a new charter school focused on fitness and sports apply for authorization in our sports-minded town.

Supremacy Sports Academy seeks to provide a diverse student body with an innovative and high-quality secondary education that produce college-bound students, while integrating sports into the school curriculum with a focus on sports leadership and management, and college preparation.

The proposed charter middle school and high school program will offer students opportunities for career exploration and internships through the following career academies in the sports leadership and management arena:

   •    Sports Medicine

   •    Digital Television and Sports Media Production

   •    Sports Marketing, Entertainment, and Management.

The program will offer students career pathways in the sports leadership and management arena through career academies, as well as mentors and opportunities for real-world immersion activities and on the job training in grades 6-12.

The founder is Memphis Native, DePaula Ross, a graduate of Craigmont High School. She attended the University of Memphis and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Management, and also received a Master of Arts from the University of Phoenix in Adult Education and Distance Learning. She decided to move her career into the Training and Development field, where she went back to school to get her teacher certification in Business Technology. She’s taught high school at Kirby High School and River City High School of Leadership and Service and taught middle school at Power Center Academy.  She found a love for e-learning and teaching and decided to go back to school to receive her EDS in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. While she was in school, she formed two semi-pro men’s basketball teams in Tennessee, the Memphis Lions, and the Hub City Cyclones, and helped many players come back into a sport that they always had dreams to play in on a professional level. She has changed the lives of many adult men in the community by giving them a positive outlet. Also, her teams have been a positive influence in the community by showing that men and women can work together to have a substantial impact on the city’s youth.

From there, she moved into the corporate world and started educating adults on the business level, but she still had a passion for teaching students. DePaula started tutoring students on many levels, but her primary focus has been on helping students and athletes prepare for the ACT. She developed Supremacy Sports, Inc. to foster player development, physical, mental, and economic growth through appropriate skill levels development, knowledge, competition, and sportsmanship while creating an environment conducive to building character, morals, and professionalism.

Her goals for Supremacy Sports, Inc. are to:

Provide quality representation to athletes by increasing knowledge among youth and adults; Develop, support, and educate young people and adults about sports while fostering national or international amateur competition.Educate athletes on all aspects of sports management, including sports entertainment, league development, education, marketing, and media.

The Power of School Choice

May 1-5 is National Charter School Week.  This week highlights the power and benefits of choice. Marie A. Wright believes enacting this choice is not only a parent’s right but the reason her children have been academically successful and able to have access to great opportunities.

Choice is not about sending all your children to a charter school over your boundary school. Choice is about picking the right school for each child.  All of our children went to different schools.  For one child, the best fit was private, and for the other two, the best fit was charter. Those children did not attend the same charter school.

Our oldest child, Timothy V. Wright Jr., attended school in both Pike and Franklin Township, but he graduated from Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, a charter school, where he was his class valedictorian.  He attended IUPUI on a full academic scholarship.

Our middle child, Taylor Byers, attended The Oaks Academy, a private school that offers a classical Christian education, from 1st to 6th grade.  She completed 7th-12th grade at Cardinal Ritter, a Catholic high school.  She just completed her freshman year at Tennessee State University, and she was on the dean’s list the entire year.

Our youngest, Morgan Wright, is a 7th grader attending Tindley Collegiate Academy, an all-girls school.  It’s a charter school where the motto is, “College or Die.”  Prior to attending Collegiate, she was a student at Avondale Meadows Academy, also a charter school.

Choice isn’t without sacrifice.  My children did not know the kids in our neighborhood as well because they didn’t have a shared school experience.  We have a 40-minute commute to get Morgan to school each day.  We also have to sacrifice time and be involved in our children’s education.  Tindley and other charters have been given a bad wrap, but I don’t understand it. They are holding your child accountable and not settling for mediocrity.  They expect you to be involved.  When you enroll your child, you are entering into an agreement with the school that you are going to be an active participant to help your child excel.

What I have loved about the charter schools my youngest has attended is the consistent communication from 1st grade on.  They have worked with her on her strengths and weaknesses. They are there to make sure she is thriving.  The education is rigorous and challenging to her.  She excels on her tests including the standardized tests.  Most importantly the school holds both my child and our family accountable for her educational outcomes.  

My advice to parents considering choosing a school is do real research, not he said she said research.  Don’t listen to your friends at the beauty shop.  You have to go see the school for yourself.  Visit the school.  Observe what is going on and consider your child, each individual child.  It’s worth the sacrifice.  We know that choosing the right school for each of our children was the right decision and we know they are going to be prepared for the future.

This piece was written by Shawnta Barnes. You can find more stories by her at