MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Some members of the Achievement School District's Neighborhood Advisory Councils, tasked with determining whether their respective priority schools are a good match with interested charter operators, spoke out against the process.
"As a NAC representative, I feel like I've been lied on and misrepresented to the public," said teacher Soya Moore, who served on the NAC for Raleigh-Egypt Middle School.
Hoping for transparency, the ASD invited teachers, parents and community members to make the determinations about whether charter operators should take over the schools. People applied to join the NAC and small groups were chosen.
Monday, several members said they believe the process was a sham.
"There were whole sections that were thrown out," said Kirby NAC member Autura Eason-Williams, referring to rubrics that members used to score charter operators.
Several NAC members gathered outside the Shelby County Schools' School Board building to voice their concerns.
They said the ASD ignored their suggestions and took over four of the five failing schools that were up for discussion. They said the ASD threw out some rubric scores to benefit the charters.
The ASD said that is not true.
It listed several reasons certain scores were tossed at schools like Kirby Middle School.
It mentioned reasons like "plagiarism" and some responses that were "flooded with opinions and references to news articles."
Incoming ASD Superintendent Malika Anderson said state law lets the district take over any failing school that repeatedly fails students.
Last week, Anderson told WREG, "For a decade or more, some of these students have been in schools that are on the priority list or in other failing conditions that is undeserving of these students, and we've said no more."
Those who do not support the ASD have said there is no conclusive data to show the ASD works.
People at Monday's event said they want the State Comptroller's Office to investigate, and they want parents to speak out.
"As a parent, I am asking every parent whose school was taken over, do not send your children to that school. You begin to call the board and you tell us that you want us to put your children in a Shelby County School," said School Board Member Stephanie Love.
The ASD sent WREG this statement:
"The ASD invited people with varying backgrounds and points of view to join the NAC and, in so doing, we knew there was the possibility that giving every member a voice in decision-making would mean that some members would not be happy when final decisions were made. This year’s community input process was redesigned with the input of a diverse group of stakeholders, including some recent critics. We agreed with the importance of strengthening parent voices in decisions about schools and that NACs should have an opportunity to evaluate the plans of school operators in areas that reflect the highest priorities for parents and community members. There is no question that the Priority schools that we engaged in this process are deserving of a meaningful intervention to significantly improve students' opportunities for success. We are grateful to the parents, students, teachers, counselors and community members who spent the better part of two months learning about and evaluating the potential fit of operators that applied to serve these Priority schools.
We did our best to run a fair, transparent process and we believe we achieved that. Based on the scored rubrics and methodology we used to ensure parent voice accounted for 50 percent of the feedback we received from the NACs, we had four matches and one school that did not match. We will honor both the match and non-match outcomes of this community input process.
We ran our redesigned process with fidelity, and we addressed every concern we were made aware of during the process. We have always attempted to be an organization that listens and learns. Our biggest concern as we move forward is the fact that we have some members of the NAC who feel the need to go to the media rather than come to us discuss their concerns. If it’s political posturing to overturn a fair and open process, then there is little we can do to address that. If there are good faith ways we can improve, we are open to that feedback. And we welcome those NAC members who continue to have concerns to meet with our team members in the new year."
SCS sent WREG this statement:
"SCS was not directly involved in today's press conference; however, the Board of Education heard similar parent/community concerns regarding the ASD matching process at its last meeting. SCS values its partnership with the ASD and is committed to a collective strategy to improve all underperforming schools. We are equally committed to being responsive to our parents and families around the issue of school choice. To that end, we will be working with parents over the next few weeks to develop options to accommodate requests to remain with SCS."
People WREG spoke with Monday provided us with the scoring information for Kirby and Raleigh-Egypt Middle Schools. You may view them here: