Hillcrest High School 10th graders bring “blessing bags” to those in need

Sometimes we just have to catch our students doing right, like these young people from Hillcrest High School.

They made the local news:

Dozens of local high school students and community members came together Saturday to feed the hungry during this holiday season. 

Many 10th graders at Hillcrest High School went out to Court Square Park with blessing bags to feed people in need. They passed out toiletry bags along with free hot chocolate, clothes, and shoes. 

Several community members, teachers and staff members were at the feed the hungry event. Biology Teacher Kelly J Dunlap helped organize the event. 

read here.


We Stand with Parents in Nashville

The charter moratorium train that has been crisscrossing the nation and dividing the black community has officially stopped in Nashville.  And as is the norm with these resolutions and board votes, parents were left out of the loop and, consequently, unable to sign up for public comment to have their voices heard. 

But we are listening. And we are praying. And we are standing tall with our fellow Tennessee families in Nashville. 

The Story

Zack Barnes lays out the story really well at Tennessee Education Report. 

Tuesday, the Metro Nashville School Board will vote on a charter school moratorium. The policy proposal is being brought by Will Pinkston. As of Monday morning, language of the resolution has still not been publicly shared on the MNPS website.

Will Pinkston calls for transparency for charter schools, but he should also be held to that same transparency. It’s unacceptable that the meeting is tomorrow, and the citizens of Nashville still can’t access the policy that will be discussed.

Sadly, this story is not a new one. It happens in cities all over the country. In March of 2015, a suburban school committee in Rhode Island also voted on a charter moratorium resolution and education advocate Erika Sanzi reports that she was unable to get her hands on a draft of the language until two hours before the meeting at which the vote ultimately took place.  Her frustration led her to pen an op-ed in the Providence Journal calling out her elected school committee for their actions and their vote. 


Vesia Hawkins is an educate advocate in Nashville and she has also weighed in to share what she knows from her first hand experience working with school board agendas; her gut is telling her that the lack of transparency is intentional on the part of the board. And she is sticking up for parents.

See, I used to work at the district, and I’ve been party to publishing these school board agendas myself. Typically, there are two reasons an agenda item would show up this late. Usually it’s innocent—there’s just a bureaucratic maze that can take time to navigate, getting all the right signatures and sign-offs. Or sometimes, also innocently, an item of urgency springs up and is time-sensitive; requiring immediate board approval.

But another, more rare but insidious reason for a resolution to pop up without notice is simply to avoid push-back and scrutiny.

My sausage-maker’s experience tells me that’s what’s going on here.

So, Nashville parents, we are with you. We condemn Mr. Pinkston and the board members whose anti-choice agenda trumps any respect for parent choice or student outcomes. 

If they knock you down tonight, we will be here to lift you right back up. We are in this for the long haul because we are parents who will stop at nothing to get our children the education they deserve. 

Sending strength and love to y’all from Memphis. 



Pro-Charter group and their candidates cleared of wrong doing

Jason Gonzales reports at The Tennessean that after four months of post election drama, Stand for Children and four pro-charter school candidates have been cleared of alleged campaign finance violations. The vote by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance board was unanimous (4-0) to dismiss the entire case. 

Others have weighed in too, including Miranda Christy, one of the four candidates accused of wrongdoing just days before the election. Vesia Hawkins, local education advocate and blogger, was granted permission to re-post Christy’s words here. 

This year has been a series of tests – and not only did I pass them all, I also managed to end up with more friends and wisdom than I had 12 months ago.

Zack Barnes writes an an edgier piece at Tennessee Ed Report where he questions the motives of those who filed the complaints in the first place and highlights what he sees as a double standard. 

But were these complaints really against “dark money” as Tennessee Citizen Action claimed or more about charter schools? Sources who attended the press conference after the hearing stated that Gerard Stranch, attorney for Tennessee Citizen Action, brought up how Stand for Children wanted to bring more charter schools to Nashville. These school board candidates weren’t even calling for more charter schools.

The complaint had nothing to do with charter schools, so it was surprising to hear that’s what Tennessee Citizen Action’s legal counsel wanted to discuss. On Twitter, Stranch believes “pro charter folks” are treated differently by the bipartisan registry.

This was about the fight for charter schools disguised as a campaign against dark money. And Tennessee Citizen Action lost overwhelmingly.

To read the full story at The Tennessean, click here. 

To read Miranda Christy’s thoughts on the outcome at Vesia Hawkin’s blog, click here. 

To read Zach Barnes at Tennessee Education Report, click here. 

Despite Insults and Condescension, Parents Remain Undeterred

Parents want choices. Black or white, rich or poor, moms and dads all share one simple truth: they want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing the right school, the best school, for their children.

PBS News Hour recently highlighted the increasing division within the black community around charter schools and school choice. 

As we all know, monopolies don’t go quietly into the night and no place is that truer than in public education. While families clamor for more and better options, powerful interest groups who benefit from there being no choices are pushing back. We see it with unions at the national and local level. We see it with the NAACP. And we see it in states like Massachusetts and Georgia where myths about money have crowded out honest conversations about quality.

Cue the Audacity and Arrogance

We hear all the time that parents aren’t engaged enough. It’s often a default response from status quo protectors looking to make excuses for the subpar performance of their schools.

But as the PBS piece confirms, when parents’ engagement comes in the form of a demand for choice, they are insulted and caricatured as somehow being unfit to make decisions about their own children’s education. The powers don’t want real parent engagement. They want parent compliance.

Meet Mr. Keith Williams, the Executive Director of Tennessee’s largest local teacher’s union. His comments during the following exchange are appalling but sadly, also very common. The damage that people like him do is incalculable.  

Keith Williams: I don’t think they have the full understanding and exposure of what a proper, adequate education is for their children.

Reporter:  But it sounds to me like you’re saying parents shouldn’t have a choice, aren’t smart enough to know where their kid should go to school.

Keith Williams: I’m saying that some parents are not capable of determining venues that will be the most advantageous for their children. And that’s a fact.

Sarah Carpenter is a parent and grandparent who lives in North Memphis and her voice is a powerful one. In her role as leader of Memphis Lift, she brings passion, wisdom, and experience to the conversation around school choice; she and her organization are fighting people like Mr. Williams and others like him to ensure that parents (and grandparents) like her — black and poor — are able to access high quality schools for their children (and grandchildren.)

I feel so sad, because we shouldn’t have to fight for our kids to get a quality education. Why do we have to keep fighting as a race of people, black people? And what’s wrong with us wanting what’s best for our kids? Just because we are black and poor do not mean that we don’t want what’s best for our kids.

Kimberly McNeal is a mom who has made her choice for her daughters and it is not the local district. In fact, she moved just so they could attend Vision Prep, a nearby charter school.

Me coming from a Memphis city school, I wanted something different, something more challenging for my children.

It’s important for anybody to have a choice, whether it’s public, private or charter. Everybody should have a choice in where they feel like their children would do better and succeed.

It is difficult for the families caught in the divide that has taken shape within the black community. But Sarah Carpenter doesn’t really even see herself in the black people or black organizations against whom she finds herself fighting.

Most of these people live in suburban areas. They look like me, but they are not connected to me.

If one thing is clear, it’s that neither the Memphis parents featured in this PBS report nor the dissatisfied parents across the country are going to stand down on the issue of accessing the best possible school for their children.

And that’s a good thing. That’s America.

Grit. Grind & Give for our Students!


Today is #GivingTuesday, a day we celebrate the Global act of giving around the world. With Black Friday, and CyberMonday behind us, many Memphians will begin giving to causes they support and believe in.

On this day of giving, I urge you to consider giving to organizations that continue to support our students, and their families.

Each day, thousands of children, solely based on their zip code, are denied access to a quality education to prepare them academically for college or a career. 

We believe every child deserves a great school. If you believe, make a gift today! 

We’ve compiled a list of the many local organizations and schools who fight everyday for parents and students in Memphis. We urge you to consider giving a donation to one (or more) of these organizations this holiday season to show your support.

Coming together to keep kids warm so they can learn

It’s just a fact that many Memphis students are without the basics: food, housing, and clothing. As winter temperatures arrive we see students who need adequate clothes to keep warm and concentrate in school.

Last December Shelby County Schools launched Operation: Warm Hearts to collect coats, hats, and gloves. It was a big success, and now it’s time for another winter clothing drive.

See video above for details!