Gates Foundation grant to stay in Memphis with or without superintendent

Published: Apr. 15, 2012 at 7:41 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 16, 2012 at 2:22 AM CDT
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(WMC-TV) - Memphis parents can rest assured that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will not pull Memphis' $90 million Teacher Effectiveness Initiative grant, even if the superintendent takes a job in another state.

Sunday, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation confirmed that they remain committed to Memphis City Schools if Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash accepts a position in North Carolina.

In November 2009, Dr. Cash secured a $90 million dollar from the foundation run by the Microsoft founder.  One year later, Gates and his wife flew to Memphis.  At the time, Gates called Cash an integral component.

"It was selected because of the commitment to make changes to improve the results," Gates said in November of 2010.

Cash is currently under consideration for superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public school system and could leave as early as June.  This comes just weeks after Memphis City Schools lost another key point man for the grant: Deputy Superintendent Irving Hamer.

Hamer resigned amid sexual harassment claims.

This is not the first time the status of the grant has come under question.  When the Memphis City School Board surrendered its charter in January of 2011, the Gates Foundation assured local leaders they would stick with Memphis.

"I think it shows the commitment of the Gates Foundation to the children of this area, regardless of who is administering this school system," said Memphis City Council Chairman Myron Lowery.

In late March, the unified school system sent a letter to the Gates Foundation to promise cooperation between the merged Memphis and Shelby County schools.  The letter said, "What we need is the continued partnership of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to continue and expand the remarkable innovations underway in Memphis City Schools."

In 2010, Gates emphasized why Memphis was his city of choice.

"We picked Memphis partly to help Memphis, but our overall goal is to help the whole US education system," he said.

The grant funds pay to evaluate, recruit, and reward high-performing teachers.  The contract expires in July of 2016.

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