I have to say, this is a brilliant idea. It does a lot of things; 1. It gives young people, who may have just recently left the MCS, an opportunity to immediately contribute to the community, 2. It removes the idea that has surrounded MCS, that no solutions have been offered, and 3. With the help of local foundations, it could provide an inspiration for those young tutors to pursue a career in education. We need young people who are committed to educating future generations. Cash has seized on this future need by dealing with a current need, lifting up the most at risk kids in the system.
There are other ideas that need to be explored or expanded as well. In the Little Rock School District, retired volunteers have been brought in to help strengthen basic reading and math skills in elementary school. This strategy works particularly well with younger children, who have high regard for grandparently figures.
Older students may be more resistant to older authority figures. By pairing these students with tutors only a few years their senior, you create a direct mentorship, a situation where the reward seems more direct to a population who may need more instant gratification.
While this is a good idea, it is highly dependent on financing from private foundations. College students have little time to dedicate to tutoring others without some kind of financial help, be it a stipend, or a tuition credit. Further, MCS will have to spend money to provide material support and implement standards by which the tutors can be evaluated. These steps are vitally important and should be open to public comment, and criticism by those who would contribute to the program and the community at large.
Despite a difficult start in the wake of the funding crisis, Cash has shown a good deal of leadership in suggesting this simple, but important program. How Cash implements the program will be a telling example of how he intends to run the district going forward. It’s important that he not fumble early on, lest he loose momentum, or worse, the trust of the community.
There’s still a lot to be done at MCS, and while this olive branch is a step in the right direction, there’s a lot of accountability in the district that needs to be laid down to maintain or gain the trust of Memphians. The fastest way to gain trust is to remove barriers to information. At this stage in his administration, transparency is an opportunity to shine, exposing waste or graft not associated with his new administration. The key is maintaining this openness…something that has proved difficult as administrations become more entrenched. Here’s to hoping Cash is successful, the future of the MCS, Memphis, and the Mid-South at large is counting on it.