Parents, teachers want answers at charter surrender town hall - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Parents, teachers want answers at charter surrender town hall

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Immediately following Action News 5's Memphis City School Memphis City Schools charter surrender debate Wednesday night, audience members were invited to ask their questions in a town hall meeting.

The format was less formal and the gloves came off in the heated debate.

"The city school board members keep talking out of both sides of their mouth," said Shelby County School Board President David Pickler.

"I really do believe David is starting to believe himself when he says these things," said Memphis School Board Commissioner Tomeka Hart.

Audience members asked Hart and Pickler their questions about what a consolidated city and county school system would mean to them and their children.

"Before I say, 'I want to surrender my charter,' I need to know what could happen," said MCS teacher Tamitha Smith.

Pickler and Hart went round and round over who forced the issue to vote without a comprehensive transition plan.

"We've been operating as two systems for 100 years," said Hart.  "The Memphis City Schools has never pushed for a forced consolidation on anything.  But if you back someone in a corner, you best believe they're going to be prepared to fight."

"Our door's open," said Pickler.  "We have twice made the overtures to the city school board to try to reach some sort of a compromise, and both times they have been rejected."

"I know it's hard to accept that you have created the monster, that you're not trying to fight," said Hart.  "But at some point, you're just going to have to swallow that pill, because you did.  If you were not pushing for this, we would not be having this conversation."

Parents, teachers and taxpayers said it is too late to play the blame game.  They asked for facts.

"All I've heard from you, Mr. Pickler, is hate," said Memphis parent Louis Morgan.  

"Will this be successful for my child and my nephew who lives in Midtown?  Yes," said Shelby County parent Mary Anne Gibson.  "You've definitely not articulated the facts.  There is a fantasy of how this may or may not work.  This is too important to rush."

There is no stopping a charter surrender vote which will be on the ballot in weeks.

"The truth of the matter is both systems, to protect their interests, are racing against the clock," said Hart.  "If you're racing against the clock, you've got to be the first one."

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