An Open Letter to Memphis City Schools

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m writing to you today as an angry parent. I am angry because Kriner Cash and many others involved in the issues with Memphis City Schools think that my daughter and others in the district are pawns. Our children are suffering while those in positions are in a Power Play to try and throw their weight around.

I’m certain that many will argue that the delay in the start of the school year does not mean that our kids will be denied an education. I can almost hear the patronizing voices of Board members telling us that all the City Council has to do is pay the $55 million and all will be well. I am also hearing people say “the children WILL get 180 days of education”. However, I say that I do not have the same trust in this school system to guarantee that my daughter and other children will have access to quality education. Tennessee requires children between ages 6 and 17 to be in school. However, until certain people get what they want, it looks as if my child and others won’t be doing that in the MCS district…well until agendas are met.

Upon reviewing the Memphis City Schools’ website, I found myself wondering how much of the information provided actually matches what’s presented in the media. According to the “Students’ Rights & Responsibilities”, the following rights were listed:

Each student has the right to:

a) Have the opportunity for a free education in the most appropriate learning environment;

b) Be secure in his/her person, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizure;

c) Expect that the school will be a safe place;

d) Have an appropriate environment conducive to learning;

e) Not be discriminated against on the basis of sex, race, color, age creed, religion, national origin, disabilities, 1,3 or sexual orientation; and

f) Be fully informed of school rules and regulations.

Upon further review of the Memphis City Schools website, I ran across the Ethics policy (1.106) and the purpose of this policy is to “ensure that school board members conduct their associations with organizations and individuals outside the school district and inside the school district in a manner demonstrating the highest degree of integrity”. Needless to say, this current situation has little to no integrity. In case you aren’t familiar with more of this Ethics policy, I have posted more parts below:

The Board of Education adopts the Tennessee School Board Association’s Code of Ethics as outlined below.

Relations to Children

Board members will at all times think of “children first,” always determining other important things according to how they affect education and training of children.

Board members will seek to provide equal educational opportunities for all children regardless of ability, race, color, sex, creed or location of residence.

Relations to Community

Board members will endeavor to appraise fairly both the present and future educational needs of the community and to support improvements as finances permit.

Board members will represent at times the entire school community and refuse to represent special interest or partisan politics.

Board members will endeavor to keep the community informed about the progress and needs of the schools.

Relations to Teachers and Personnel

Board members will support the employment of those persons best qualified to serve as employees and insist on a regular and impartial evaluation of all staff.

Board members will support and protect personnel in performance of their duties.

It’s likely that there will be arguments about finances warranting this emergency delay in opening. Granted, there may not be any rules mandating when schools are opened. However, who wins in this battle? Even if the city council decides to hand over the $55 million immediately, this entire drama has left a bad taste in the mouths of the parents. Am I to believe that as long as Kriner Cash is superintendent that he will sacrifice the kids to make “business decisions”? Should I anticipate another battle until we are merged with Shelby County Schools? If schools end up beginning on time, teachers are paid and students are able to begin learning, what security do I have that something else won’t emerge later that renders me helpless as a working mom?

As of 10:20am on July 20, 2011, Memphis City Schools and #mcs is a Trending Topic on Twitter. We aren’t trending because of the President’s visit like we once were, but because our kids aren’t going to begin classes on August 8th. People are Tweeting, blogging and Facebooking about how angry they are for living in Memphis right now. Jokes are made about there being an NFL Lockout, an NBA Lockout and an MCS Lockout. We have been discussed on CNN and even The Tom Joyner Morning Show over this mess. Just weeks ago, we were at our highest level as a community as we cheered on Booker T. Washington, now we’re not even sure when the Class of 2012 will start school.

I know that this is a lengthy, angry rant, but I am but one angry voice of thousands. My 5 year old daughter’s late birthday meant that she would begin Kindergarten near her 6th birthday. She’ll actually tell you that being born in November is why she’s 5 years old and still in daycare. So when she’s eventually asked why she’s nearly 6 years old and still in daycare, should I tell her that it’s no longer her birthday as the cause for the delay, but political foolishness in a school system without a charter led by a power tripping Superintendent? Or should I tell her that it’s because her mom and dad can’t afford private school? Maybe I should tell her because her parents decided to live comfortably near their jobs instead of in the County, so they can save money for their first home.

I guess that’s the downside of living within your means in Memphis…you can’t pack up and run when things like this happen. Well, whether I could uproot or not, I will be fighting. I’m fighting for my daughter and other children who deserve to learn regardless of whether they live near Northside, Southside, East or Westwood. This is for the honest parents who would LOVE to claim a friend’s address to get their kids into Shelby County School districts, but instead do the right thing. This is for the people who can’t afford to migrate to DeSoto County and for those who just don’t want to leave. We will continue to raise hell until this mess is resolved. This is unfair, and it needs to be resolved. Everyone who has a say needs to do whatever they can to get school started on time. Stop bickering over 10% and do the right thing for a change. Stop delaying the rights of our children. Stop playing with the incomes of the already underpaid and overworked teachers.

In short, I want everyone reading this to do something. As a parent, I am doing my job. I ask you all to work together to get our schools open soon. Even if there is nothing you can do, forward this to someone who can. Pass it on to any and every person of power. Maybe if enough people care, we can make a difference.

Thank you for your time,

Tamara Cranford

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