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Proposed changes at Winchester Elementary has some parents concerned

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Major changes could be on the way for Winchester Elementary School in Whitehaven.

The school district says it's a plan that could improve failing test scores and provide much-needed, additional resources.

Sherrie Partee's children went to Winchester Elementary. And now, she has three grandchildren at the school.

She also runs a home day care right across the street. So Partee has a stake in what happens at Winchester.

"I've been on the PTA over there, and I've just been self-involved," she said.

Partee says she was surprised to hear about a major overhaul for the school slated to start in 2020.

"We received a phone call. The recorder told us there would be some changes at Winchester and that there would be meeting."

A letter dated January 16, says SCS is recommending a new academic program for Winchester.

It's a program that would name the school Winchester Elementary Literacy Lab School.

The school would be run through a partnership with the Memphis Teacher Residency, a non-profit program that recruits and trains teachers to work in high need areas.

According to its website, resident educators work with mentor teachers. And MTR is already in more than 30 schools across Shelby County.

But the proposed Winchester model is new, and the entire staff would be as well. So current teachers would have to re-apply for jobs.

"Basically, we're just getting another makeover. Well, how many makeovers do we get in six months? It's a bit much," Partee said.

She is referring to the fact that Winchester's long time principal retired at the end of 2018, and the man that replaced her left after only a few months on the job.

"There's no consistency. No stability. We don't know what we're going to get from one day to the next," she said.

But Winchester is a priority school and a designation for those in the bottom five-percent across the state. Rules mandate the district come up with a plan to turn things around.

A proposal outlines why SCS is reviewing this model. One of the goals is to boost literacy.

MTR told us 80 percent of the classrooms would have the teacher, plus a teacher in training.

Students would get an extended literacy block and teachers will have enhanced training.

Partee started collecting signatures to petition SCS to do away with the plan.  She says she's not opposed to change or MTR, but wants to hear about more options.

"They may have to change some things, or critique some things in their organization. But not take all of the teachers away. Don't blind the children with newness," she said.

The school board was originally set to vote on the proposal at Tuesday board meeting. But instead, they'll review it at February's meeting.

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