Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It’s Now Time To Reform Memphis City Schools

Friends and Neighbors,

It is unfortunate that the Memphis City School board has not only surrendered their charter but also their voice on the debate of reforming the city’s education system.
In the coming weeks, there will be much debate on how to reform a broken and failing Memphis City School system. Although the politicos have surrendered and given up, the citizens have not. We are asking voters throughout Shelby County to help in providing input on this future reform movement.

Since receivership falls upon the Shelby County School system, we will demand that reform be instituted immediately and without delay. Our community must create our own education "Marshall Plan" and commit to making this the Manhattan Project of Memphis. Our children have been left behind for far too long. Reform need not be painful, but it is necessary for the welfare of the children! MCS must be transformed from a failed system (that many believe long ago "devolved" into a city jobs program with bloated payrolls and patronage) to a cadre of professional and effective educators empowered to make a difference.

Excuses can no longer be accepted nor tolerated. There should be no "sacred cows", everything should be open to reform. We have been given an opportunity. Now we must lead.

There is much work to be done. The following must be executed during the critical transition period:

1. Reduce the influence collective bargaining has on our system. SCS has a teachers organization in place and it should remain as the single recognized agent for all teachers.

2. Eliminate the current optional program system.

3. Close all schools that are no longer viable to operate.

4. Outsource / privatize services wherever possible to eliminate waste.

5. Eliminate duplicate administrative staff positions and reduce overhead costs. We do not need two administrations!

6. Serious consideration should be given to approving new charter schools, and funding homeschool cooperatives.

7. Decentralize decision making, transfer power to principals, and empower great teachers.

8. Institute mandatory after school tutoring, adding another period to every teacher’s schedule.

9. Remove all current MCS department heads, review and assign the most qualified teachers based on TVAAS scores.

10. Assign SCS transition managers to all schools and empower them to make personnel decisions.

11. Immediately institute longer school days and school year to close the gap between our students and their peers both on a National and Statewide basis.

12. Set an immediate goal of lifting the former MCS children's ACT scores to a level of parity with the former SCS children. Graduating students who require remedial education to gain admission to one of Tennessee's public four year colleges or universities should no longer be acceptable.

We need your input, now!

Failure is not an option.

Save Our Students


Anonymous said...

Tom, your plans are well thought out as usual.

..but, what do you think will happen when Sara Lewis is seated? Since the minutes have not been approved, do you think she will vote against surrendering the charter?

sbanbury said...

Tom, what's your reasoning for doing away with the optional program?

Aaron said...

"Eliminate the current optional program system"

I second Scott's question. Why eliminate the optional program?

Tom Guleff said...

I don't see a strong advocacy for the optional program on the SCS board. Depending on the transition period, you may see some major restructuring of MCS.

I think there is true debate whether optional schools really help a district. Basically you are housing the best and brightest students (along with great teachers) into a few high performing schools. Optional programs are not really about reform but rather retention. It is really an outgrowth/symptom of a failed education system.

It certainly will become part of the debate in reforming and restructuring MCS. The MCS we know today will be gone. Since the majority of the kids in the district are not reaping the benefits of program, I believe it will up to those parents and teachers to lobby SCS to keep certain programs intact.

Start working now, and get to know the players on the SCS board. I have heard reports that the transition board could be in charge for up to the end of their term.

In any case, interests group do have the power at times to institute these types of actions. (i.e. I-40 through Overton Park)

Get involved on the front end. Scott B. is very good on the grassroots level. I wouldn't wait, if you feel strongly on this or any other school issue. Things are moving fast, regardless what you read in the CA. Remember, they are only reporting after the fact.

Aaron said...

I don't see the optional program going anywhere, given that it's one of the major strengths in the MCS.

I have two sons right now that are greatly benefiting from the program. Maybe there is debate among those who have never had kids in the program but not among parents with kids in the program.

Advocating for the optional program would further validate your agenda as being a sincere effort in "saving the kids" as well as improving the future SCS.

Steve Steffens said...

The reality is that all parties are going to have to sit down and talk to make this work, because it WILL happen.

A new board will be created with redrawn lines, with roughly a 2-1 Memphis/Non-Memphis ratio. optional schools will likely be extended to the entire county, as will certain special programs that MCS provides and SCS does not.

What I believe can happen is that much can be done to reduce and restructure the ominous MCS bureaucracy.

Also, I believe that a merger will force the County to look at schools with declining enrollments and determine whether to close them. yes, some activists will scream that school closings will kill their neighborhoods. However, if it has gone that far, the neighborhood is probably dead already.

There will be a year or two of litigation, but ultimately this is inevitable. People threatening to sell their houses in THIS economy are making idle threats, unless they are prepared to lose everything they have invested.

And frankly, if they are that scared of poor people (this is as much or more about economic class as race), then they can move to North Dakota, as far as I am concerned.

Jacob said...

While I don't believe in your premise that the MCS school board merely "has given up", I agree with most of your points. I believe that first and foremost, the vote had to do with funding. MCS was afraid of losing it, and they played the only card in their deck. This is merely a point of contention for me personally, I feel that rather being a "surrender", it's a vote for "consolidation" or even a "takeover". Surrender just doesn't seem like the right word when you step back and look at the big picture.

Where you are right, is realizing that now is the time for change within the entire system (both SCS and MCS, as SCS is not without it's faults either). However, I think the immediate elimination of the optional school program would be impossible. While there may be a lack of advocacy on the SCS board, I believe the parents of students currently within the program will not allow it to be eliminated. I agree with your comment that the optional school program is an unfortunate symptom of a failed school system, however I feel that the optional program should be slowly (think years) eliminated. This may have been your thought all along, but it was not expressed that way. I think you will have trouble gaining support with such a negative attitude toward this program.

sbanbury said...

Personally, I'm excited to have the opportunity to engage in some constructive reconstruction, much like I feel hauling home a rusted old woodworking tool for restoration.

Public schools, next to public health and safety, are the most important services of local government. Their success determines our economic potential and quality of life.

Aaron, let's get some optional folks together after Christmas, either at Snowden or somewhere along Faxon.

Tom, thanks for the props. Please email me your contact list for the SCS board and any personal thoughts you have on 'em.

Tom Guleff said...

Scott, I'll forward their emails to you. Diane George is considered the most open to MCS issues, believe it or not. You and I know, it is all about the prework on these types of issues. Showing up at the last minute won't cut it. Politics is about "relationships", and it holds true with any issue. It's how the sausage gets made.