Memphis charter school could be forced to close in matter of weeks

Updated: Oct. 23, 2019 at 5:04 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Memphis charter school that promises to help students earn college credit and get their associate degree could close in a matter of weeks.

It comes after a Shelby County Schools investigation found several violations.

SCS has oversight of charters schools within its boundaries, including Southwest Early College High School (SECH).

The district launched an investigation after concerned parents, students and former employees came forward.

SCS posted the results of its investigation along with a presentation online, outlining why the school’s charter should be revoked immediately.

The district says SECH relied on unlicensed teachers in multiple classes; failed to provide proper services to special needs students; and lost its partnership with Southwest Tennessee Community College, where the school is located, because students weren’t receiving the academic and socio-emotional support needed. The presentation also said the school had “no institutional control.”

Tracy D. Hall, the president of Southwest Tennessee Community College, said her school was left with no choice than to end its partnership with SECH.

“Students are not being well served,” said Hall. “We asked for the basics: strong leadership from the school and that the leadership commits to providing students what they need to be successful. We did not feel that was too much to ask.”

Last month, education groups and parents protested outside the school, concerned staffing issues were keeping students from earning their associate degree.

"There are a whole lot of things that are going on and all you have to do is just take time and pay attention because parents are speaking out," said Teresena Catron with Memphis Lift.

A school spokesperson called the protest "an intimidation tactic."

On Wednesday, SCS spokesperson Jerica Phillips told WMC Action News 5 the school board will decide the school’s fate at a meeting on Monday, Oct. 28.

"We are following the state's timeline in regard to their revocation process," said Phillips.

If the board revokes the SECH’s charter, the school will close Nov. 8, unless they appeal to the state, according to SCS documents.

If SECH does appeal, the state will have to issue its decision by Jan. 7.

SECH announced Jeremiah Frazier as its new interim principal on its Facebook page Monday night.

According to SCS documents, 179 students are enrolled at SECH.

WMC Action News 5 asked SECH for comment about SCS’s investigation and move to revoke its charter but did not receive a response by Wednesday’s news deadline.

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