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VOL. 128 | NO. 182 | Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Achievement School District Fields Questions at Carver

By Bill Dries

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The Achievement School District and the charter school operator that could run Carver or Fairley high schools for the state-run school district got lots of questions and some skepticism Monday, Sept. 16, at Carver.

The forum at the South Memphis high school was one of three the district held Monday across the city, as leaders talk with parents about plans for the low-performing schools it wants to include in the district in the 2014-2015 school year.

The third school year for the ASD would see the district move into high schools, following two years of operating elementary and middle schools.

Three more meetings were scheduled for Tuesday evening at other schools on the ASD list for 2014-2015.

“To me, this is plan C,” said the Rev. Ralph White, Bloomfield Baptist Church pastor and Carver alumnus. White and other school supporters have presented the countywide school system with two plans for keeping the school open. One would expand the school to grades six to 12; the other would zone students from the old South Side High School out of Hamilton High School and into Carver.

Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has included Carver on a list of 12 schools he is recommending the school board close with the 2014-2015 school year.

BARBIC

White accused him and the school system of “kicking us under the bus.”

“All I’m asking for is some open-mindedness,” White added.

Achievement School District superintendent Chris Barbic emphasized several times that the decision to close the school is one he won’t be involved in, but added that Achievement School status is one option for keeping Carver open.

“What we believe is the system the school operates in is broken,” Barbic told the group of 60 in the school’s library. “Tonight is the beginning of the process. We understand this is a big decision. It’s an important decision. … I can’t promise you at the end of the day that we are going to make everybody happy.”

Barbic and Megan Quaile, vice president of Green Dot Public Schools of Los Angeles, the charter organization that could be paired with Carver, fielded questions that dealt mainly with how Green Dot would work with the Achievement School District, whether Carver students will still attend the school and what happens to the faculty.

Carver students now zoned to the school remain at the school unless their parents specifically opt out of the ASD. The faculty members reapply for jobs with Green Dot.

The Achievement School District schools as well as Shelby County Schools’ set of Innovation Zone schools are drawn from the state’s bottom 5 percent in terms of student achievement.

Carver is one of 17 high schools across the state in the bottom 5 percent.

According to Tennessee achievement test scores for the 2012-2013 school year, only nine in 100 Carver students taking English II were proficient or advanced. That fell to one in 100 in English III, one in four in Algebra I and three in 100 in Algebra II.

The Achievement School District will announce in December which schools will be paired with each charter operator.

“If Carver is in the lower 5 percent with the teachers it has, why would you consider hiring them?” one citizen asked.

But Barbic and Quaile said they weren’t “pointing fingers” at the faculty.

“We’re not naive enough to come in here and say, ‘We are Green Dot. We are here to save your children,’” Quaile said.

“What about athletics?” a parent asked. Quaile said the school would have athletics and its own student performance standards for being eligible to play sports.

Another former Carver student wanted to know about vocational courses. Quaile said Green Dot operates college preparatory schools and that vocational or technical courses could be offered, but probably not in the first years of the charter school.

After an hour of questions, White was courteous but not sold.

“It looks like, ‘Either you do this or you’re through,’” he said. “We’re not through. We may work with you later, somewhere down the line.”

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