Friday, May 29, 2015

Media Awakens to South Side Lawsuit

a clip from Chalkbeat:
Citing the historic U.S. Supreme Court case that led to integration of America’s public schools, a handful of Memphis parents and teachers are suing Shelby County Schools over a recent school closing, claiming that its students will receive an “inferior and unequal” education at the school to which they are being reassigned. 
In a motion filed in U.S. District Court, three teachers, family members of two students, and a community activist argue that test scores at South Side Middle School, which is in the process of being shuttered, outpaced those at Riverview Middle School last year. They say Riverview is a dilapidated building in a gang-ridden neighborhood that would place students’ safety at risk. They also cite absence of computer and Spanish classes at Riverview, which were offered at South Side. . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

South Side Parents and Teachers File Federal Lawsuit to Stop Closure

Having been unsuccessful in getting Shelby County Schools to listen to reasoned argument, South Side parents, teachers, and concerned citizens have filed suit against SCS in U. S. District Court to halt the planned closure of South Side Middle School in Memphis.  

Plaintiffs in the case allege violations under Tennessee statutes, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, and  violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  

Below are the factual allegations:

1. Defendant SChas voted througits Board and its Superintendent to closSouth Side Middle School grades six througeight and to move those children who previously attended South Side Middle School to a facility presently known as Riverview MiddlSchoofor the upcoming 2015-201school year.
2. Your Plaintiffs aver that thmovement of students from the South Side Community to the Riverview Middle School is detrimental to the welfare and  proper education of thosstudents and parents  in the South Side community.
3. Your Plaintiffs aver and will show to the court that better alternatives exist and the movement as planned by the SCS violates the equal protectiorights of the South Side students under the UniteStateConstitution and ArticlXI, Section 8 of the TennesseConstitution as well as
42 USC TitlVI .

4.The movement of students as planned by SCS fails to provide substantially equal educational opportunity for the SoutSide students because SCstudents are being removed from theicommunity and placed in the midst of a crime-ridden Injunction Zone from the RiversidRolling Nineties Crips. (See Exhibit E Attachehereto) The Shelby County District Attorney General, Amy Weirich and the Environmental court have declared this area an injunction zone fogang activity. The area five blocks from Patton street which encompasses the Rivervie MiddlSchool has been determined a nuisance by the Shelby County District Attorney , the Memphis Mayor and the Shelby County Environmental court. This is no place to send our children.
5.The movement of students as planned by SCdoes not provide a rational basis for vastly unequal school quality. By the analysis of SCS in their owassessment documents, fothe 20114-2015 academic year (See Exhibit A attached hereto) Riverview Middlhas poor academic performance with fewer than 15 percent proficient in Math and Reading LanguagArts. South Side performance and proficiency figures are based on a larger sample of students because when yoconsider the schools grades six
through eight. South Side has twice as many students. (See attached Exhibit B) With 166 Students, Riverview Middlis under-enrolled and does not enjosome full-time course offerings such as computer and foreiglanguage (Spanish). South Side offers both computer and Spanish. Riverview has steadily declining enrollment since its ten-year peak in 2004-2005 at 62students, RivervieMiddle is underutilized at 23%. There is a declining overall birth trend over the last ten years and an enrollment projected to continue to declinover the nexfive years. . South Side has a School Level EvaluatioComposite of 3 although the chart, (see Exhibit attached heretosomehow reaches an unexplainablaverage of 2 although three’s are present across the board. This is thsame inexplicable reasoning thais moving South Side to Riverview when it clearly appears the move should be the other waaround.

6The movement of students as planned by SCcreates inferior education and inferior treatment for the South Side students rather than the equal treatment contemplated by the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution and equal protectioprovisions of the Tennessee constitution. The Riverview Middle Structure is in a dilapidated and hazardous condition. Pursuant to the 2013 physical needs assessment (See Exhibit D attached), Floor urinals are antiquated and do nomeet ADstandards. Stairwell treads have lost their integrity. The window system is old and needs replacing. The interiolighting needs replacing. The roof was thirteen years old and ipoocondition. The parking lot was in disrepair. The locker rooms were ineed of renovation. The ceiling in the kitchen needed repair. The cooling tower, chillers and air handler were needed replacement at a cost of $650,000/ The South Side facility and structure is in excellent condition.
7. Moving children , if nocarefully done cabe detrimental and cause the children to slide backwards. In this instance othmove from South Side to Riverview, it has not been well done.
 Below is some background, previously published here, on how the lawsuit emerged.  Please give to the Legal Defensed Fund:
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to get to know and to work with a core group of dedicated teachers and parents in South Memphis who are smart, savvy, committed, unrelenting, and fearless in doing what is necessary to beat back the privatizers and profiteers who now think they call the shots for Memphis schools.  

These new friends and colleagues have attended school board meetings, where they heated up the microphones, and they have gone on TV and radio to get the message out on the ASD corporate charter handout organization and its homegrown equivalent, the IZone.  They are determined to keep their community schools open.

This group, OurStudents MatterNow, has plans save South Side Middle School from being shut down and turned over the charter industry, which is waiting to swoop in to score another big real estate deal and to devastate another community that loves its school.  

They need your help. OurStudents MatterNow has started a legal defense fund to take their case into the courts, and they are planning for public demonstrations and organizing events this Spring.  

If you want to put your money at Ground Zero of the effort to save community schools and make them better, please help these dedicated citizens.  Their GoFundMe site is here: 

Their other contact information is or

Friday, May 8, 2015

Memphis Schools Matter: Astroturf Clippings

Memphis Schools Matter: Astroturf Clippings: The Commercial Appeal had a story today about another Walton funded group in town to drum up support for Haslam's corporate giveaway, t...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Astroturf Clippings

The Commercial Appeal had a story today about another Walton funded group in town to drum up support for Haslam's corporate giveaway, the Achievement School District.  A clip:
 Stand Up for Great Schools, the pro-school choice network that challenges African-American “grass tip” leaders to take charge of their children’s education, held its first “policy summit” in Memphis Thursday. . . .
My reaction posted at the CA:

Grass tips? Really? I would describe these corporate reform has-beens as turf clippings, as in astro. Although seeing Carol Johnson, Michelle Rhee, Kevin Johnson, corporate unionist George Parker, and the over-excitable Roland Martin in the same room proclaiming for the Haslam segregated chain gang school agenda would definitely be worth the price of admission. Sorry I was out of town.

This is an obvious attempt to shore up support within black communities for the ASD's corporate education reform school plan, which has been repeatedly rejected by parents, teachers, and students, who are fed up with corporate education exploitation.

The question must be asked: who is funding these high rollers' trips to Memphis? Is it the same Walton Foundation that has backed previous efforts by Stand Up for Great Schools?

Does Kevin Johnson really believe he can brow beat Memphis citizens so that take his bad advice to create a steering committee and then to report back to Kevin and Michelle? Does Kevin really believe that Memphis children are his children? I would guess that Kevin has fouled out.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

High School Charter Expansion in Memphis Assisted by Green Dot Exec on School Board

Previously posted at Schools Matter May 3

Yesterday the Commercial Appeal reported that the next corporate assault on Memphis public schools will be directed toward the hostile takeover of high schools next year.  Although the upper grades corporate charter chain, Green Dot, was not mentioned in the story, the California corporation is already advertising for instructional and admin positions in Memphis.  From current Green Dot ad for a finance and operations director in Memphis (my bolds):
The Green Dot Public Schools Tennessee Director of Finance & Operations will support up to 10 schools in Memphis as they are added into the Green Dot network.  For the 2015-2106 school year, the Director will be responsible for supporting two existing schools as well as 1-2 new schools for the 2016-2017 school year. He/she will partner with Green Dot’s National Expansion Growth Team, Green Dot National Departments, the Memphis Executive Director, and Home Office team members to set up processes and systems to support the operations and finances of Green Dot Tennessee schools. 
And why wouldn't Green Dot be confident of big growth opportunities in Memphis, especially since they have an executive, Miska Bibbs, serving their corporate agenda while also serving on the Shelby County School Board.  Last year the multi-tasking Ms. Bibbs chaperoned a group of Fairley parents and students to Los Angeles to see Green Dot in action. Photo below.  This year Green Dot has taken over Fairley.

No doubt this will be embarrassing enough that the SCS School Board will insist on Bibbs resigning her post as Green Dot exec.  And why shouldn't she? She has already done her job and earned her keep.

Below is my posted comment on the Commercial Appeal story announcing big growth in high school charter operations in Memphis:
If we follow the mandate to change what's failing, there are a couple of things I would address before shutting more community schools and turning them over to corporate operators.  It's hard to say what would be first, but here goes:

1) Change the failed accountability system that has been used since 2002 to verify over and over that where poverty is high, test scores are low. If there were some remedy coming out of this truth that we have known for generations, that would be good. But there is not.

National studies show charter schools that replace public schools are no better at changing the stubborn fact that the poverty gap is, indeed, the test achievement gap, even though a great deal of attention goes to those charters that appear to have the miracle scores that would seem to defy reality. How do they do it? Let me point out which charters I am talking about:

a) those charters that receive extra money from investors looking for big tax breaks and bigger real estate deals;

b) those charters that are laser focused on test results to the detriment of healthy child development and intellectual growth;
c) those charters that issue total compliance contracts between families and schools that demand meeting expectations or else, which leads to massive de-selection of low performers and problem students who end up in the remaining public schools;
d) those charters that burn through, every two years, idealistic amateur non-teachers [see Green Dot ad here] who are fed up and exhausted by the time they learn to teach on the children of the poor;
e) those charters with fewer special education kids and English language learners;
f) those charters that abuse and humiliate children to grind out higher test scores that are used to build corporate charter brand names and add more school contracts;
g) those charters that spend 50 percent more time in schools constantly prepping for the next standardized tests;
h) those charters that impose cultural sterilization and brainwashing techniques that are presented as character training--techniques that no middle class parent would ever allow.

2) Change the way we attempt education reform. Rather than pretending that taxpayers should believe that corporate amateurs can get results that educational professionals cannot, let us move the focus from what happens inside the school building to what happens in our society, which includes the school. Schools, alone, either corporate or public, cannot alleviate the effects of poverty. As the great educator, Jean Anyon said, "Trying to Fix an Urban School without Fixing the Neighborhood in Which It is Embedded is Like Trying to Clean the Air on One Side of a Screen Door."

As long as we ignore the poverty, segregation, institutional racism, and lack of cultural, social, and economic opportunities in the communities where we expect miracle schools to defy realities, one lucrative corporate cure will follow another, and the taxpayers will be left holding the bill with nothing to show in return except a deeply eroded democracy and children turned into deracinated robots whose sanctioned exploitation should bring us the shame we surely deserve.

The Community Schools Legal Defense Fund of Memphis will be on street corners beginning Tuesday near South Hollywood. Give generously to keep public schools public and to make them better.