Herenton Will Try, Try Again

Posted by John Branston on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Willie Herenton's bid for nine charter schools was turned down by the joint school board this week but the former mayor and school superintendent says he will resubmit his application in November.

"I think the review process is a healthy one," he said. "It forced our team to be more specific in terms of our mission and instructional programs and curriculum design, which are all essential ingredients in quality schools. Overall, I feel that it is a fair process."

Herenton is in the odd position of being an applicant getting "needs improvement" marks after 30 years in executive positions that generally put him on the other end of the process. All of the board members are familiar with his career, and many of them have had personal experience dealing with him. Add to that, there may be some reluctance on the part of the school board to expand charter schools along with other "escape hatches" while the merger is in the works.

In conjunction with Harmony Public Schools in Texas and the Cosmos Foundation, Herenton has applied to run seven charter schools in the city of Memphis in 2012-2013 and two more in the county in 2013-2014.

"At this point the county is crowded and does not have excess space," he said. "In 2013 when the systems are merged there should be ample space."

That remains to be seen. It is unclear how the merger will play out and how much shuffling of student populations there will be. Ultimately, that will depend partly on policy and partly — probably moreso — on how parents vote with their feet. There is already surplus space in city schools, and three elementary schools are being targeted for closure due to low enrollment and the condition of the buildings. While not wishing to appear critical of the pace of closure, Herenton noted that he closed 15 schools early in his career as superintendent.

In an interview, Herenton seemed upbeat and eager to continue the process.

"I may not be the best application writer but I know how to run good schools and get good results," he said.

He agreed that his intial application should have been more specific.

"Their application process is highly technical," he said. "They place a lot of value on format whereas I place value on substance of how you are going to improve academic achievement in the midst of poverty. We commenced putting our team together on the same night as the school board meeting. When we picked up the evaluation, we went to work that night with assistance from my strategic partner, Harmony Schools."

The merger is going forward on two tracks. While the merged school board addresses charter school applications and other nuts-and-bolts matters, the separate transition team is doing research on other cities and taking a big-picture approach. The transition team meets Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

Comments (8)

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Harmony Schools are the best performing schools in Texas. Almost one third of the STEM Schools in Texas are the Harmony Schools. In Science Olympiads, MathCounts, Robotics and other national and international competitions, Harmony students bring a lot of trophies home. I wish we can replicate their successful system in Memphis, too.

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Posted by Nathan Rollins on 10/27/2011 at 11:20 AM

In other news, that zit on my ass has returned, too.

Posted by Jeff on 10/27/2011 at 2:51 PM

Jeff: So, yours is the ass of progress, eh?

Charter schools are inimical to the very essence of public schools, and have the potential to kill them, so I guess it shouldn't surprise anyone that Dr. Herenton wants to finish what he started.

Posted by M_Awesomeberg on 10/27/2011 at 5:51 PM

Harmony Science Academy is part of the Gulen Movement managed Charter Schools in the USA. They have schools worldwide and follow exiled leader Islamic Imam Fethullah Gulen who was first denied his green card because of his claim he had some extraordinary "talents". Gulen has a 5th grade education but is in control of Turkey's police, politics, education, media, etc., and is using this same model of "moving into the arteries" in the USA as he instructed his followers worldwide.
These schools are currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering, USCIS violations and many other causes of action. Ultimately, Gulen recieved his green card on his appeal which was oddly signed by members of the CIA.

These schools in Tennesse will be the first ones spearheaded by a non Turkish Islamic point person. They are incidious and will do ANYTHING to expand the movement: lie, steal, cajole, bribe, intimidate, threaten, etc., Do your research, this group was denied in Knoxville

Posted by AmericanEducation on 10/27/2011 at 8:50 PM

The "international" competitions at which Harmony schools win awards are run by the Gulen Movement, just like the Harmony schools themselves. The Gulen Movement runs ISWEEEP and GENIUS, as well as the Turkish Olympiads. The reason they run their own competitions is to make sure their own schools, both here in the US and in other countries, win many awards. This misleads parents into being impressed with the schools. In other countries it lets the Gulen Movement make money from seemingly elite private schools that charge very high tuition. Here in the US the Gulenists make money from tax dollars - construction bond money, contracts from the schools, educational "management" or "consulting" fees or other forms of overhead. Parents who actually believe the Gulenists are here because of their "dedication" to education or because they just like nothing better than taking middle school students on field trips are sorely deceived.

Posted by Deprogrammer on 10/28/2011 at 3:37 AM

Here is a link to a New York Times story on Harmony Schools:…

Posted by John Branston on 10/28/2011 at 6:52 AM

That's a shame, though. I bet they spent a lot of money getting Herenton as their point man with the expectation that his name alone would open all the doors. I bet he assured them it would.

Posted by Jeff on 10/28/2011 at 7:41 AM

I think it's probably best to keep Taterhead out of the school system.

Posted by Poon on 10/28/2011 at 10:44 AM
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