Community stands against possible ASD takeover

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Leaders, parents and students gathered outside Raleigh Egypt Middle School on Tuesday afternoon, uniting against a possible state takeover.

"Leave the Raleigh Egypt campus alone," State Rep. Antonio Parkinson said.

Parkinson said the state considered taking over Raleigh Egypt High School last year but never did. He said the school has made gains on its own.

"It begs the question that, why so much interest in the schools here on the Egypt campus?" Parkinson said. "And we know they're large schools. We know they have the capacity to have high student populations, and to some, you know, that equals to money."

The Achievement School District is able to match schools with charter operators if the schools are in the bottom 5 percent in the state and do not show the necessary gains.

Charter school operator Scholar Academies applied to run the school and said it has followed what it calls the parent-led process outlined by the ASD.

Scholar Academies said in a statement, "We trust that as we continue to engage with parents and families in the Raleigh community, we will learn more about the unique aspects of the Raleigh community and we look forward to including those core characteristics in a potential partnership."

Some opponents were upset, saying they have received handouts from the charter in their mailboxes.

"What is this about? Why are you doing this? Is it even legal for you to be even going in my mailbox, putting information?" Raleigh Egypt parent Chasity Balfour asked.

"The last I checked it was a federal offense to go in anybody's mailbox unless you are a United States postal office worker," school board member Stephanie Love said. She said she attended the event Tuesday purely to speak as an elected official.

Love and Parkinson spoke about improvement efforts already in the works at Raleigh Egypt Middle.

Parkinson said if Scholar Academies does take over, the law does not require parents to send their kids to that school.

"If they want to inherit an empty shell of a building, they're more than welcome to inherit an empty shell and all of the expenses that come with inheriting that empty shell of a building," Parkinson said.

He said community members are starting discussions about the possibility of trying to form a K-8 school to give families the option, if it comes to that.

"We're not in denial that we still have challenges that we need to overcome, but we are up for the challenge, and we are fighting for the children right here in the Raleigh community," Parkinson said.

Scholar Academies said it wants families of students who have questions to call its Community Engagement Director at (901) 305-9983. The charter is holding office hours at the Raleigh Library on Powers Road from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 16, 23 and 30.

The ASD said priority schools are making progress. It said in a statement, "It is unfortunate that some elected officials-- with no children in the schools involved-- hesitate to give this type of control to interested parents and community members. These are the same elected officials who not only oppose the positive work happening in the Achievement School District, but are also fighting against the positive work of Superintendent Hopson and his team courageously leading the iZone efforts."

Parkinson said families of students are welcome to contact his office at (901) 379-9101.

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