Lester and Gordon Elementary Get State-Run Charter Schools

By Bill Dries

Lester Elementary School and Gordon Elementary School will be converted to state-run charter schools under the state’s achievement school district.

Achievement School District Superintendent Chris Barbic announced the school selections Monday, Feb. 27, as he also announced the state-run district for the state’s lowest performing schools will also operate Corning and Frayser Elementary Schools as well as Westside Middle School as “achievement schools.”

Lester’s state run charter school will be operated by Cornerstone Prep, a local non-profit, which plans to phase in the k-5 school starting with kindergarten through the third grades in the 2012-2013 school year and adding grades four and five in the 2013-2014 school year.

Gordon will be operated by Gestalt Community Schools, which currently operates Power Center Academy on the New Direction Christian Church campus in Hickory Hill.

It’s conversion will be different than Lester’s. Gordon Elementary School will retain its elementary school and will add the charter school which will be open to only students from schools rated in the bottom five percent of student achievement in the state. Most of those schools are in the Memphis City Schools system.

Gordon’s charter school, which will be called Gordon School of Arts and Sciences, will start with the sixth grade in the 2012-2013 school year and add the seventh and eighth grades in future years.

The charter schools are the first in MCS to operate within an existing school.

Barbic also announced Monday that he and MCS officials are working on plans for a new KIPP Academy within Cypress Middle School that would also be a cohabitation model.

Corning, Frayser and Westside will remain neighborhood schools with no changes to their attendance zones. Under state control, they will be funded on the same per pupil formula basis as all schools in the state.

The six schools will see changes in school culture that could include longer school days, an infusion of new teachers as all teachers and staff reapply for their jobs, expanded early childhood education and additional support programs for students.

The three schools, all in Frayser, are an attempt to affect a feeder pattern among 10 Frayser schools including Frayser High School, at the top of the feeder pattern.

Of the 10 schools, only two – Westside Middle School and Georgian Hills Elementary School – are not in the state’s bottom five percent.

Barbic has told Memphis educators that affecting the feeder pattern has to start with elementary and middle schools instead of high schools because that is where children fall behind first.

“Focusing on feeder patterns allows us to be more creative and innovative in our efforts to help students achieve academically,” Barbic said Monday in a written statement.

Barbic plans to hold parent information sessions March 8, March 15 and March 20.

Barbic sent a recorded telephone message Monday evening to the homes of the 1,300 students at the three schools to be run by the state to announce the changes starting in August.

Earlier in the day, he met with teachers and staff on each affected campus.