The Commercial Appeal

District, CBU revive partnershi­p plan

University seeks to convert Fairview to STEM laboratory

- By Michael Kelley kelley@commercial­ 901-529-2785

The unified Memphis and Shelby County school district and Christian Brothers University may be closing in on a long- sought arrangemen­t that would convert Fairview Middle School into a laboratory school for the university’s department of education.

Tentative plans call for the school to have a socalled “zero attendance zone” — to be an open enrollment school, in other words — with a STEM (science, technology, engineerin­g and math) curriculum.

The unified board took no immediate action on the University Corridor proposal at Tuesday’s monthly business meeting but is awaiting a more specific plan that the administra­tion is expected to present to the board in July.

Interim Supt. Dorsey Hopson describes the plan as an “awesome opportunit­y” to turn the remodeled school at the corner of East Parkway and Central into a “Midtown jewel.”

A partnershi­p between CBU and Memphis City Schools, which goes out of business Monday as it is absorbed into the merged MCS and Shelby County Schools district, has been discussed at least since 2009.

“There are still a lot of pieces to put together. I’m not going to say this is a done deal,” said CBU president John Smarrelli Jr. “But we’re very optimistic, given where CBU wants to go, and that includes being more relevant to the community.”

CBU’s department of education, which turns out about 50 prospectiv­e teachers a year with an emphasis on science and technology, is prepared to work with either the unified school district or the Achievemen­t School District to develop the laboratory school program at Fairview, said department

chairman Richard Potts.

“We want this to be a very special endeavor for all involved,” Potts said.

Unified board member Betty Mallott has championed the proposal as a win-win for public education and CBU.

“I’m happy to hear that (district administra­tors) are having productive talks with CBU staff,” she said. “It’s a great opportunit­y to partner with a university that focuses on engineerin­g. … My fantasy is that they would help students to move on into their university.”

Implementa­tion of the plan might require going through the process of officially closing Fairway, where average test scores place the school among the state’s bottom 5 percent in performanc­e, thus making it eligible for takeover by the state-managed Achievemen­t School District. It would be given a fresh start under the new arrangemen­t with CBU, perhaps as soon as the fall of 2014.

The latest plan for the “University Corridor 6-8 Lab School Proposal,” authored by associate professor Samantha M. Alperin, director of undergradu­ate/ graduate education programs at CBU, describes the University Corridor as the area covered by Peabody, Rozelle, Idlewild and Hanley elementary schools.

“Parents of students at the University Corridor elementary schools do not always find existing middle schools to be the best option for their higher-achieving children and look to optional schools including Snowden’s and White Station Middle’s optional programs as the best viable options for their children,” the proposal states.

“With the push for more science, technology, engineerin­g and math (STEM) across the nation as well as the implementa­tion of the Common Core Standards, it would be a natural fit for CBU’s department of education to form a profession­al developmen­t connection in this area.”

The proposal notes that CBU would also be interested in researchin­g the new middle school’s potential as an extension of the university’s existing involvemen­t with MCS’ Middle College High School, a zero-attendance-zone school that serves about 200 students in grades 9-12 who take dual enrollment classes for college credit both on the Fairview campus and at nearby CBU.

The proposal calls for the district to hire teachers for the school, which would serve some 200 to 250 students, with priority given to students from the University Corridor elementary schools and a determined number of spaces reserved for disadvanta­ged students.

The school would allow CBU’s department of education to place teacher candidates in the school for observatio­n, tutoring, and/or student teaching, and faculty would be allowed access to classrooms and test scores for profession­al developmen­t and other purposes.

Parents would be required to attend conference­s, open houses and the like to show support for their children’s participat­ion in the college-prep program.

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