Though Shelby County Schools educates the majority of students in Memphis, the overall landscape of who is running schools in Shelby County is changing. Next year there will be close to 50 publicly-funded, independently-run charter schools in Memphis, and the state-run Achievement School District (ASD) will be running 21 schools deemed as academically failing by the state.

Candidates for the district’s school board have varying thoughts about whether charter growth in the city should continue, according to Chalkbeat’s query sent to all of the candidates. While the district’s board has no formal control over the growth of the ASD, it can vote to approve or reject charter school applications. The growth of both the charter sector and the ASD will have serious financial and academic implications for Shelby County Schools, which will have to respond to shrinking enrollment in its traditional schools.

This year’s school board race will likely upend almost the entire board with seven of the nine seats up for grabs. The election day is Aug. 7. Early voting began July 18. Chalkbeat asked all of the candidates questions around several issues that will likely arise in the next four years. We have reprinted below answers from candidates who replied to questions about the ASD and charter schools.

Chris Caldwell in District 1 advocates for using schools’ performance and academic outcomes to determine whether they should expand to serve more students,  Stephanie Love in District 3 and Damon Curry Morris of District 9 call for more collaboration between the ASD, the district and charter school operators, and Roshun Austin in District 9 believes charter growth should be “measured,” while Anthony Lockhart of District 3 says that current charters’ academic performance doesn’t seem to warrant more charter schools. Mike Kernell of District 9 calls for adherence to charter school law.

Candidate Miska Clay-Bibbs is the director of community engagement for Green Dot, a charter school within the ASD. Teddy King is the community engagement manager in the ASD’s central office.

District 1

Chris Caldwell

Chris Caldwell
Chris Caldwell

What are your thoughts about charter schools and the Achievement School District?

Any school that can reach students’ needs & drive an increase in student achievement should be supported- we need to make sure that we identify what aspects of any education model that are useful in improving student outcomes- not sure how the cost efficiency & performance of the ASD will play out as they increase the number of schools under their jurisdiction

How should the district interact with the ASD?

We should all work in the best interests of students and collaborate where there are mutual benefits

How should the district interact with its charter schools? We should monitor effectiveness and move swiftly to close schools that are underperforming Should the city’s charter school sector grow? There are plans currently to use charter schools in the I-Zone- again we should consider all options carefully to make sure if there is a track record of improving student outcomes.

Should charter schools have to pay for their buildings? Charter schools should pay for the use of the buildings unless they are willing to accept all kids & keep them for the full academic year (or have the student performance reflect on their school if the student leaves before the state assessments) Why? Currently charter schools have not addressed the previous items mentioned

 

Freda Garner-Williams

Freda Garner Williams
Freda Garner Williams

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Shelby County Schools?

The loss of fiscal resources is the biggest challenge facing Shelby County Schools.  Reduction in funding is caused by several situations including ASD Schools, increase in the number of charter schools, and decrease in funding from federal sources.  Another great challenge is the negative perspective that many community members have of Shelby County Schools.


District 3

Stephanie Love

Stephanie Love
Stephanie Love

What are your thoughts about charter schools and the Achievement School District?

I believe that it is vital for quality education to be delivered to Shelby County students. To my understanding charter schools as well as the Achievement School District were developed to help deliver quality public education to students. It is in my opinion that any entity dedicated (i.e. traditional public school system, charter, etc.) to delivering public education should be held accountable to students and families. In order for quality education to be delivered school staff and parents need to work together for the benefit of educating students regardless of the educational entity. Educational entities should be transparent, honest, work with the community and keep the community informed about what is going on with the education of students.

How should the district interact with the ASD?

One of the ways in which SCS should interact with the ASD is by effectively communicating with parents regarding issues that may involve the ASD in a timely manner. For example, SCS did not notify parents about Frayser High School being acquired by the ASD and operating as a charter beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. SCS decided to allow the ASD to formally communicate the change which was not done until June of 2014. In my opinion, SCS should have communicated with the parents of Frayser High School students to inform them about the school being acquired by the ASD.

How should the district interact with its charter schools? Should the city’s charter school sector grow?

The district should hold current charter schools accountable to the agreed upon terms of performance between the respective parties. Given the current climate of education reform in Memphis, I believe the charter school sector should not grow within SCS. I do believe the district should be diligent in monitoring current charter schools based upon results based accountability.

Should charter schools have to pay for their buildings? Why?

I believe that charter schools having to pay for the buildings they inhabit should be reviewed on a case by case basis.


Teddy King

Teddy King
Teddy King

What are your thoughts about charter schools and the Achievement School District?

I believe that charters and the ASD offer parents options for their children’s education.

How should the district interact with the ASD?

The district should work in partnership with the ASD because per the law, all ASD schools will eventually return to SCS.

How should the district interact with its charter schools? Should the city’s charter school sector grow?

SCS and its charter schools should work in collaboration not competition. Collectively, the goal should be to create a great public school system. I believe that charters should represent no more than 20% of SCS.

Should charter schools have to pay for their buildings? Why?

Shelby County is responsible for educating the children in its boundary and for these reason can allocate tax payers’ dollars to build facilities. If a for profit entity wants to use or acquire one of these facilities then they should have to pay.


Anthony Lockhart

Anthony Lockhart
Anthony Lockhart

What are your thoughts about charter schools and the Achievement School District?

Their have been a lot of success stories with charter schools and some have not been so successful. I do feel that we should support the charter and achievement schools. More so support the parents and their decision to have a charter school.

How should the district interact with the ASD?

It should be a partnership. ASD is focused on making the bottom five percent the top 25 % in five years.

How should the district interact with its charter schools?

The relationship need to be maintain, due to the fact there has been so much change,  charter schools need support, direction and administrative support. The funding issues will be the same for both. Not to mention the supporting the parents the elect for there kids to go to charter school.

Should the city’s charter school sector grow?

No, not at this time , I have not seen any significant educational growth to see the need.

Should charter schools have to pay for their buildings?

Yes. Why? At some each charter needs to have adequate funding to support overall operation of the school which includes buildings grounds, facilities contracts and more.


District 9

Mike Kernell

Mike Kernell
Mike Kernell

I did vote to allow charter schools as a legislator. I did not vote for unlimited charter schools. The ASD process is under state law. If I become a member of the Board, I will observe and report to the State the results as I see it.

How should the district interact with its charter schools? Should the city’s charter school sector grow?

Charter are allowed and regulated by State law. I believe the Board must follow the State law. Each charter school should be evaluated on a case by case basis.


Damon Curry Morris

Damon Curry Morris
Damon Curry Morris

What are your thoughts about charter schools and the Achievement School District?

The law is the law, and as long as the law says that these entities can exist then we must serve the children that take part in their programs.

How should the district interact with the ASD?

Diplomacy should be the main factor that the district should consider when they interact with the ASD. We must remember to work together to educate all of our children.

How should the district interact with its charter schools? Should the city’s charter school sector grow?

Once again these schools are here to stay via State Law, and we must remember the point is education for children. As the laws are in place, these schools will grow. However, it should not diminish the educational system we have in place.

Should charter schools have to pay for their buildings? Why/why not?

We should not use this as a way to keep the charter schools from growing, but everyone should be responsible for contributing to the tax base of our county.


 

Roshun Austin

Roshun Austin
Roshun Austin

What are your thoughts about charter schools and the Achievement School District?

Both the charter schools and the ASD provide choice and alternative to students who are most at-risk. The perception in the community around ASD has generally been negative. The ASD has the opportunity to engage more effectively in communicating their role and goals around educational achievement and improvement.

How should the district interact with the ASD?

The district’s interaction should be open and cooperative. I always point back to the existence of both entities as educating all children.

How should the district interact with its charter schools? Should the city’s charter school sector grow?

As the charter granting entity, the district and charters should have an interdependent and supportive relationship. The district must recognize that the role of the charter is to provide an alternative for the most vulnerable students and the district must make every effort to provide support to ensure that all schools receive quality education. I am not completely sold on the idea of the charters being forced to purchase services through the district.  I believe in finding efficiencies and taking cost-saving measures.

The growth of the charter sector should be well thought out and measured. The board must determine the growth rate in concert with the community, its “customers”.

Should charter schools have to pay for their buildings? Why?

Locally we must consider that many school buildings would sit vacant and become a drain on the district’s budget with the costs of holding and maintenance.  I think charter schools should cover the costs of improving, holding and maintenance of district-owned buildings. I am a proponent of adaptive reuse of all buildings. School closings and vacancy more often negatively impacts economically distressed neighborhoods. Just as charters provide a choice and alternative in education for parents, the use of the buildings by charters is an alternative to conditions of blight.