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VOL. 126 | NO. 21 | Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Forum to Address Students’ Needs in School Showdown

By Bill Dries

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Most of the real experts on how a city and county schools system consolidation will work on a day-to-day, classroom-to-classroom basis won’t be voting on the matter next month.

But Memphis and Shelby County school students will get a chance to talk over the MCS charter surrender and its effects Saturday at 1 p.m. at BRIDGES, 477 N. Fifth St.

The four-hour session is specifically for students in the program, which brings together students from both school systems as well as private schools.

The BRIDGES building has already been the site of several forums on school consolidation and the Memphis City Schools charter surrender.

The Saturday forum will explore many of the same topics but from a very different perspective.

“We’re in every public and private school in Memphis and Shelby County,” said BRIDGES president Jim Boyd. “We felt like there was a lot of attention being paid to adults. But nobody was really providing an education forum for kids.”

BRIDGES is taking no stand on the ballot question. For the afternoon session, it is gathering information from both sides and information in general about the issue.

The city and county school students are determining how the session will work.

“We’re not sure we’re going to have talking heads,” Boyd said, referring to the political and elected players on both sides of the question on the March 8 ballot. “We’re going to let the kids decide how they want to approach that.”

The forum will do that through gathering as much written material about the proposal and the different positions as possible in what Boyd is calling a “movement in a box to empower students in their schools to make informed decisions about this.”

Boyd and other adults at BRIDGES have already heard from some students who are taking in a much different kind of debate among adults but have their own experiences to rely upon as well.

“Because we have both city and county students who’ve been working together perhaps several years … we expect that they will be able to discuss these issues in a pretty thoughtful and reflective way,” he said. “There are a variety of adults who are providing sort of inflammatory positions and making inflammatory statements one way or the other. And the students, they know that but they don’t have any other information to balance it.”

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