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Memphis LIFT Assembles Task Force to Strengthen Parent Voice in Search of MSCS Superintendents

As the Memphis-Shelby County School Board prepares to launch its first search for a national superintendent in a decade, Charles Lampkin has several thoughts on the qualities he wants to see in the next leader.

Lampkin, the father of three MSCS students, believes the next superintendent should prioritize transparency and focus on restoring trust within the community. They should “keep a finger on the pulse” of the district, Lampkin said, and provide greater oversight of operations.

Most importantly, he says, the next person to lead Tennessee’s largest school district should be someone who wants to see all of the district’s more than 110,000 students grow and prosper and who wants to support teachers and school staff. school.

Lampkin was one of twelve parents and grandparents who gathered Monday night at the Memphis LIFT office for the first meeting of a Blue Ribbon task force that will write a leadership profile outlining the qualities and experiences they would like to see in the next superintendent, according to a press release.

The task force plans to share its findings with the MSCS Board of Trustees in hopes that the district’s next leader will “improve the performance of every student and steer the district away from decades of chronically failing schools, facilities poor and mismanaged,” the statement said.

“People in this room, we’re going to drive this bus,” Sarah Carpenter, executive director of Memphis LIFT, a North Memphis-based parent advocacy organization, told meeting attendees.

The meeting comes days after MSCS Board Chair Althea Greene announcement on Twitter that the board will begin the search for national superintendents later this month, when members vote on whether to begin the process of hiring a search firm.

Greene added that the board plans to appoint a new leader by the end of the 2022-23 school year.

More than two months ago, the board approved a separation agreement with former Superintendent Joris Ray, who had been investigated for abusing his power and violating district policies by engaging in sexual relations with subordinates. The agreement provided Ray with a severance package of approximately $480,000 plus certain benefits, and neither Ray nor the board admitted any wrongdoing.

Ray was named to the district’s top job in April 2019, after the council decided against launching a national search. Council members said they believed Ray, a career district employee who had served as acting superintendent for months, was a “extremely qualified candidate” and ruled that a national search was unnecessary given the time and cost it would take.

But some Memphians questioned whether Ray was the most qualified candidate for the job and felt the board should have broadened its search. Memphis LIFT led the charge against Ray’s nomination.

That’s why the group decided to take on and talk about this research, Carpenter said Monday, calling the task force “huge” for the city. In addition to the parent working group, the organization also plans to set up a student committee.

“We can’t have a superintendent working as usual,” she said. “This system has failed black and brown children for decades and decades and I don’t want to hear any more excuses. We must do better and we can do better, starting with involving our parents.

The task force will spend the next two months interviewing some of the nation’s top education officials, as well as business and philanthropic leaders in other major cities.

Carpenter said Monday that she has already begun arranging interviews with local leaders such as Elliot Perry of the Poplar Foundation and Terrence Patterson of the Memphis Education Fund, as well as nationally known personalities like Michael Bloomberg, l former mayor of New York who championed charter schools. New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks has already agreed to meet with them, Carpenter said.

The task force wants to get a glimpse of what makes leaders effective and innovative and compare it to what MSCS finalists say in their interviews later this school year, Memphis co-chief of staff Ashlyn Sparks said Monday. LIFT.

“We’re not looking for things that can be given lip service,” Sparks said. “We don’t wait for them to say ‘literacy is important’. We don’t wait for them to say “we have to clean the house”. Anyone can stand up and say all these things. We want to know what actions and measures should these people take? »

The MSCS board is expected to continue discussions on the superintendent’s research at committee meetings scheduled for Nov. 15.

Samantha West is a reporter for Chalkbeat Tennessee, where she covers K-12 education in Memphis. Contact Samantha at [email protected]

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