MSCS School Board Chair responds to concerns raised by Memphis Lift, Whitehaven Empowerment Zone

Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 6:35 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis-Shelby County school board chair Michelle McKissack responds after education advocates and parents call for a state forensic audit and for district leaders to resign or be replaced.

McKissack says she spoke with Memphis Lift recently and was disappointed to hear their claims of being ignored by district leaders. One issue education advocates their concerned about are vacancies among district staff. They claim the district is facing about 400 of them.

Shock and disappointment from one district leader just a day after some parents and education advocacy groups Memphis Lift and Whitehaven Empowerment Zone called for the removal of the Memphis Shelby County School superintendent and board members.

“I think it’s natural for people that frustrations,” said Memphis-Shelby County School Board Chair Michelle McKissack. “I mean we’re coming off a really tumultuous time how much plus years of a pandemic and so therefore the natural reaction it’s okay, lets get rid of these people well the problem is still there that we’re all having to deal with.”

Last school year’s state testing scores were a large concern among parents at a press conference held by the groups Monday. The Tennessee Department of Education says MSCS had an 11% success rate for students scoring on level for state tests. McKissack says they’re working to improve that number.

“Only 29% of students are reading on grade level across the country,” said McKissack. “So that gives us some context that it’s not something that is unique to Shelby County Schools.

McKissasck says she and the board vice-chair met with Memphis Lift last week. She asks district families to give them time to improve learning loss from the pandemic.

“I want people to know that we are working very hard and I believe the greater majority of the public realizes that we care,” said McKissack. We’re in this community. We’re parents. We’re educators. We live right here in Memphis and Shelby county.”

The district held a virtual press conference Tuesday. Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray did not take any questions about calls for his resignation.

When it comes to vacancies, McKissack says the district is experiencing challenges with hiring like other industries.

When asked how many vacancies the district has among staff, Memphis Shelby County Schools sent Action News 5 this statement:

Strong schools have engaged parents and community support. Memphis-Shelby County Schools welcomes parental involvement, which is why we have a standing meeting with Sarah Carpenter and the members of The Memphis Lift, why we host our districtwide Parent Ambassadors program, and why we, like school districts nationwide, undergo scheduled audits from our regulatory agencies and have dug into the data from all available sources to develop initiatives that address the mental health and academic challenges brought by the pandemic.

Michelle McKissack, Board Chair of the Shelby County Board of Education, added, “Our MSCS educators are doing heroic work helping our students recover from the pandemic. The momentum continues to build with the transition of four Memphis schools from the state-run Achievement District back to Memphis-Shelby County Schools for the upcoming academic school year. With much excitement, this homecoming shows that our teachers and principals truly support local control.”

This summer, a record number of students are enrolled in district programs through our enrichment workshops, credit recovery courses, athletic camps, and Summer Learning Academy. Through these expanded summer offerings, we are Reimagining 901, and we welcome our parents and community partners as we work to help our students and region move forward.

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