Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Stability for transitional students - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Stability for transitional students

By Ursula Madden - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash has a radical plan to Take Back Our Neighborhoods - a plan that would help transitional students, who move at least once during the school year.

Transitional students make up one third of the district's 104,000+ pupils.

For the past few weeks, Taking Back Our Neighborhoods has focused on 'Katyana' and her three children, Terri 11, Devon,14, and Angie,17.  Homeless, but hopeful, the family tries to stay positive.  They use a door separating their two rooms at the Memphis Family Shelter, as a motivation wall.

Devon's artwork is displayed.
"On the left side is my little sister, the right side my big sister, and in the middle is me," Devon said. "I drew that last year."

Any achievements are also posted on the door, including many honor role certificates that show the kids hard work.

These three children, and hundreds of homeless like them, are a priority for Memphis City Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash.

"These are the students that I think are the most vulnerable," he said in a recent interview.

And Cash has a plan to give these children a quality education: A Public Boarding School, modeled after Deerfield and Exeter Academies, some of the best college prep schools in the country.

Cash is trying to secure federal dollars to start a pilot school for up to 300 children at the elementary level.  He would use part of the money to re-purpose one of the district's underutilized schools.

Cash wants to have the school up and running by August 2010.

"I'd get the parent or parents to sign a contract," he said. "They could visit, certainly. I want the children in a steady environment.  I don't want them all over, trying to live shelter to shelter place to place.  It's not good for them."

If the pilot boarding school is successful, Cash says, a middle school and high school would follow.

"These are expensive schools to run operationally, but it's also expensive to society to have so many children lose ground simply by the fact that they don't have a steady place to live," he said.

We asked Katyana what she thinks about Cash's plan.

"I want them to get an education," she said. "I want them to go to college. I want them to do better than I did."

And for these reasons, Katyana supports Cash's idea, even though she says being separated from her children while she was in jail was tough.

"If it's going to better them and better their education so they be college bound...I agree I would send my kids to boarding school," she said.

Katyana says the only drawback is without her children, she could not stay in the safety of the Memphis Family Shelter while she tries to get back on her feet. The shelter only takes families.

To read the Time Magazine article about Dr. Kriner Cash’s boarding school proposal, click here:

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