Parents, education advocates request state forensic audit for Memphis-Shelby County Schools

Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 10:16 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Frustration and anger are coming from education advocates and Memphis Shelby County Schools parents.

They’re asking state leaders to step in after they say their concerns on student performance and district funding have been ignored.

Parents and education advocates with The Memphis Lift and the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone are asking for a forensic audit and for MSCS Superintendent Joris Ray to step down.

They say they’ve done all they can to reach out to district leaders, and now they hope Governor Bill Lee may be able to help with their concerns.

“The school system needs a complete overhaul,” said MSCS grandparent Jacqueline McKinley. “I think it starts with the superintendent.”

Jacqueline Mckinley has six grandchildren in MSCS schools.

“We’re holding you accountable for all the things that have not been done,” said McKinley. “Look at the stats. Look at the way things are running.”

McKinley is referring to testing data from the Tennessee Department of Education’s 2020-2021 academic achievement indicator.

The Department of Education says MSCS had an 11% success rate for students scoring on level for state tests. Memphis Lift Executive Director Sarah Carpenter believes it’s unacceptable.

“It’s no student achievement,” said Carpenter. “Eighty-nine percent of our kids are on grade-level. The reason why we’re asking the governor to step in is because local people are not listening to us.”

Carpenter and Memphis Lift members say the district and school board are not being transparent about where school funding is going.

Just weeks ago, board members approved a $1.9 billion budget with millions going towards improving old school buildings. MSCS Parent Marcus Randolph says next year, he’d like to see current district leaders go too.

“Next year I would like to see a shakeup with our superintendent, “said Randolph. “I need to see a shakeup, which we have a few board members that will be voted in or back out this year. I would like to see just about everybody cleaned out and let’s start a new.”

Memphis Lift says they also want raises for teachers.

They also say they have requested a meeting with Lee and are waiting to hear back. Until then, they plan to keep trying to get answers from district leaders.

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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