SCS looks to save Excel school for adults pursuing high school diplomas

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tenn. Department of Education says several Shelby County Schools have to shut down next year to due low performance. But one of those is not your average school. The Excel Center provides the opportunity for adults to pursue a high school diploma.

On Tuesday, officials with Shelby County Schools voted to save the Excel Center by making it a contract school.

Jennifer Holmes, 32, attends the Excel Center; it's the first time in 15 years that school has been a part of her routine.

"I dropped out of high school in 2003. I was 16 going on 17," she said. "I dropped out because I was pregnant. I just felt like there wasn't any hope for me."

The mother of eight says she's never been able to get a quality job. But when her daughter graduated from high school in 2018, she saw something new.

"She's had so many doors open to her. I want the same opportunities as well. So the Excel Center I feel like gives us a second chance," she said.

Markese Kelly, 19, is another Excel student. He dropped out of high school in ninth grade.

"I just want to make a life change for myself, because I want to be a fireman," he said.

Goodwill owns the Excel Center, which is registered as a charter school. Officials say they have nearly 400 students.

But earlier in 2018, the State Department of Education announced it's one of seven under-performing schools that will have to close at the end of the year.

School Board member Stephanie Love says the problem is that the Excel Center gets compared with other regular high schools for graduation completion times. They're hoping to re-register Excel as a contract school.

"The superintendent, he's working on something to bring back to the board," Love said.

That gives parents hope for the future.

"I have two kids. I just know I want to do something better with my life. I know I have them to look over and take care of," Kedarius Watson said.

Goodwill says it's CEO and vice president both plan to be at Shelby County Schools' board meeting on Tuesday afternoon.