Superintendent Dorsey Hopson is asking Tennessee’s education chief to let Shelby County Schools keep control of American Way Middle School and place the struggling school in its own turnaround program, the Innovation Zone.
And Commissioner Candice McQueen is hinting that she’s willing to talk.
Hopson’s official request came this week despite McQueen’s plan for the Memphis district to convert American Way Middle to a charter school or risk having it placed in the state’s Achievement School District.
“Our Board voted to place American Way in the iZone next year,” Hopson wrote McQueen on Tuesday. “The Board was uncomfortable waiting for an additional year before taking action.”
McQueen wants the school to become a charter school in the fall of 2019 under the state’s new accountability plan. The board voted to place it in the iZone a year earlier than that.
But Hopson said the district’s concerns extend beyond timing.
“During its robust discussion regarding a district-led charter conversion, the Board was particularly concerned because we are unaware of any middle school charter operators who have strong track records of success in the turnaround space,” Hopson wrote. “For these reasons, the Board indicated that it will not approve a district-led charter conversation.
He added: “Given the I-Zone’s progress, we respectfully request that the State allow American Way to remain in the I-Zone for at least 3 years. Notably, one of American Way’s feeder schools is also in the I-Zone.”
McQueen said Friday that her office needs more information about the district’s proposal for American Way Middle before she makes a decision.
“We had a conversation with the district this week to make it clear that simply saying the school will be in the iZone next year does not tell us what the plan for that school is, and we still need more details on what it would look like for the school to be served by the iZone,” McQueen told Chalkbeat through a spokeswoman. “It is also not clear what charter options the district explored.”