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Memphis Lift parents speak out against ASD layoffs

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Parents with children enrolled in Achievement School District schools spoke out against proposed layoffs Friday afternoon.

“It’s like an ambush,” Marquita Finnie said of not being informed about the layoffs.

Finnie said she has four children who attend Whitney Achievement Elementary in Frayser.

ASD announced earlier this week it’s eliminating 29 positions including that of Tim Ware’s, the executive director of five ASD schools in Frayser including Whitney.

He said his job and others were being eliminated as of June 30 due to reorganization.

“Where the work lies, that has changed. In those changes, the role of executive director does not exist,” Ware said.

Parents gathered around Ware as he left school Friday to show support. They say he’s been more than an executive director; he’s more like a father figure.

“When our babies die in this community we see your face. We don’t see the people in Nashville’s face,” said Sarah Carpenter, executive director of an organization called Memphis Lift.

“They’re taking resources and prominent people away who’ve spent time in our community,” Teresena Wright said.

Rep. Antonio Parkinson attributed the changes to a failing budget for ASD, established by the legislature in 2010.

“The funding initially put in place for the ASD to start and operate, that funding is gone. There’s been mismanagement of that money,” he said.

Parkinson warned parents to take their kids out and put them back in Shelby County Schools.

Parents said they might do that but hoped they woudn’t have to. But they felt stuck; they wonder if anyone else cares about their kids like they do.

“Why do people in poverty… why do we have to fight so hard for what our kids deserve? Like why? Why are we fighting so hard to get our kids the best education? It shouldn’t be that hard,” Finnie said.

WREG contacted ASD officials Friday afternoon but they did not respond to requests for comment.