Some more of the dialogue we captured in the current cover story of The Memphis News, “Making Sense of the Merger.”
Since the story went to press there has been a big development which we’ve covered in The Daily News – the departure of Kriner Cash as superintendent of Memphis City Schools. Look for more on that in The Memphis News this Friday.
The two parents we talked with for this week’s story had some other thoughts on the merger from the parental perspective that we didn’t get to in the story.
Brandy Rogers DeWeese, the city schools parent we spoke with, talked about the annual optional schools ritual of waiting in line.
“I think it’s crazy when you have White Station Middle which is a wonderful school, but when people start lining up Thursday before the Monday when you have to register your child, that seems antiquated,” she said. “I stood in line before to get my kids into school. I think there definitely is a better way.”
But there has been debate about this with more to come once the school board starts dealing with the recommendation from the consolidation planning commission to do away with the line ritual.
Some parents agree the line should go. Others however have told the school board they want the line to stay and view it as the line that separates parents who talk about doing what they have to for their kids and those who do what they have to for their kids.
It’s an entry point into the even larger discussion to come about optional school programs and how accessible they are to children in all parts of the city – and now the county.
Sharon Farley, president of Shelby County Schools PTA Council, told us the optional schools program is of interest to parents in the county outside the city. Those parents will also be competing for spots in those programs with open enrollment. Open enrollment already means children from across the county – not just the city. That will include the new Bravo Academy optional school for the musical arts that is on a fast track to open next August at what is now Humes Middle School.
Meanwhile, Farley is taking on the merger rumors head on. And she is also urging those parents she talks to to remain involved in what it is becoming apparent will be a merger that continues to unfold at least over the first two school years.
Saying parents have to be involved in the education of their children is like saying you are for education and against crime. Everyone agrees with it. But few people can articulate the specifics of that as well as Farley did during our interview.
“As long as parents are involved in that way and engaged and realize it isn’t about the instant gratification at this point – it is a constant and you are trying to help your child get the skills and experiences necessary to function in a world that you’re not going to be in,” she said. “If parents can do that, I think the system itself will work around that, instead of despite that.”
DeWeese, in her concern for the gifted student programs her children are in, has created a grapevine of parents, teachers and school board members while trying to avoid being aligned with anyone politically. That means five-hour school board meetings in which the cause you came to speak about is not yet on the agenda. But it has also meant meeting other parents who have the same concerns and who have different concerns.
“Parents have concerns. It’s just what is their comfort level in terms of how far do they want to step out on a limb to advocate for their kids,” she said. “However this ends up, I’m going to be at peace with the fact that in this situation I will not have the opportunity to sit back and say I can’t believe they did that because I have done everything that I possibly can besides serving as a school board member.”