I made the decision to relocate my family to Nashville from Texas to find quality education options for Gianna and George.

Now in 1st and 3rd grade, I see the growth and opportunities they had because I enrolled them in a Pre-School program. Being around other children regularly gave them social skills, exposed them to other walks of life, and taught them how to manage conflict on their own.

Gianna’s favorite part of Pre-School was having responsibility for herself and her work. She was expected to do homework, learn songs, and do other things (somewhat) on her own, which gave her a sense of independence.

Enrolling in a quality Pre-K program requires time and money, but I can’t say enough how important it was to have our children learning at a young age. In April, I’ll be going through the process again for my youngest child during MNPS Pre-K Enrollment Week.

Join me in doing the research to find and apply for the early education program that is best for your child. Together, we as parents in Nashville can advocate for quality early education programs to become even more accessible to ALL families.

This Letter to the Editor was published in The Tennessean on December 16, 2016.

I am a proud Metro Nashville Public Schools parent, and I have had the privilege of working with Stand for Children as a parent member for over a year now.

I have watched with dismay as Stand and its staff have been dragged through the mud. Stand is a nonprofit organization that is doing great work in this community. I am appalled that the school board race devolved into political antics, slander and bullying of good people who have worked to improve educational outcomes for our children and wanted to serve this community as elected officials. What kind of example are we setting for our children?

All children deserve an equal opportunity to succeed in life, and education is the key that unlocks the door to success.

I am appreciative of the work Stand does, empowering parents to engage in opportunities to advocate for children in Nashville.

Here, Every Day, Ready, On Time. That’s what it means to be a HERO at school and frankly in life. Showing up to face your obstacles, eager and ready to accomplish your goals influences probability of success in childhood and adulthood.

Regular and consistent school attendance is vital to academic success. Chronic absenteeism and truancy can have lasting negative impacts on student growth. Delinquent behavior, low literacy skills, grade repetition, and high school drop out are just a few of the outcomes that absenteeism may cause. 

Research indicates that student growth begins to suffer academically if 10% or more of school days are missed, and students in Tennessee who do not attend school regularly are five times more likely to drop out than their peers with satisfactory attendance. Attendance is even more critical in early childhood as too many absences beginning in Kindergarten can affect a child’s ability to learn to read and write, and cause them to fall behind in school.

In one Memphis school, its leaders and parents are working together to ensure students are positioned to succeed and collectively setting an example for how to maintain and increase attendance.

Vision Preparatory Charter School (Vision Prep) has one of the highest school attendance rates in the city – an average of 95%. Executive Director, Tom Benton says the keys to keeping attendance high are providing structure and making students love coming to school.

“We know that students, teachers, and parents appreciate structure in school and in academics. Through great lesson planning, our teachers make learning exciting, engaging and fun – which drives great conduct and attendance.”

The school also uses an attendance board to track, highlight and celebrate student attendance daily.

“I know from personal experience how hard it is when you fall behind. I grew up in foster care, went to multiple schools, and had no consistent way to [get to] school, which made it hard for me to catch up. I make sure that my child doesn’t have to go through that and deal with any additional stress.“ 

Tabatha Jones, the parent of a Vision Prep kindergarten student, agrees that structure is important to encourage attendance. But ensuring that her daughter, Kiara, maintains HERO standing is about more than attendance, it’s about giving her child a better shot at succeeding in school than she had.

“I know from personal experience how hard it is when you fall behind. I grew up in foster care, went to multiple schools, and had no consistent way to [get to] school, which made it hard for me to catch up. I make sure that my child doesn’t have to go through that and deal with any additional stress.”

She advises other parents to plan ahead, maintain a strict schedule, ask for help, and carpool to ensure children are attending school daily and arriving on time, in addition to nurturing your child’s budding independence.

“After school, homework is always done first. I set a daily alarm for myself at 6:20 a.m. and in the morning I get up and make sure everything is set out such as uniform and toothbrush. I also put an alarm in my child’s room for 6:30am so that she knows when to wake up every morning. It teaches her how to get up on her own.”

In Shelby County, chronic absenteeism is a growing concern. In the 2014-2015 school year, 17.3 % (20,284 students) missed 10 or more of the required minimum of 180 days in attendance, an increase from the previous school year.

At Stand for Children, we’re encouraging parents to commit to making sure your child reaches HERO status by taking the following action:

 » Set a regular routine for homework and bedtime.

 » Get to know your child’s teachers and administrators.

 » Make sure your child knows that regular school attendance matters.

 » Seek help from your school or community if you are facing tough challenges.

 » Develop back-up plans for getting to school in case of emergencies, such as calling on a family member, a neighbor, or another parent.

Parental involvement is essential to combat school absenteeism and small changes can have a huge impact at home and at school.

Stay engaged with Stand for Children for updates and tips on how to support your child’s academic growth and advancement.

Be your child’s HERO! 



Stand for Children Tennessee’s mission is to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, a college education or career training. Learn more at www.stand.org/tennessee.

As an Organizer, London works to improve the education system and schools in Memphis.

Isadore Harris is a Stand for Children Parent Leader at Aspire-Coleman Elementary in Memphis, Tennessee. He shares his story on what it means to be a leader at Stand and the launch of the H.E.R.O. Attendance Awareness Campaign.

My name is Isadore Harris and I am a leader at Stand for Children. Stand for Children is a group that I have found to be an organization that understands the needs of the community. This outreach group reaches out to the community that surrounds the educational circle of our young men and women of the new millennium.  One way they have done so is by forming a leadership team with community and school parents.

Not only does my opinion count, but being a leader at Stand has allowed me to find and use my voice to address certain issues at public events and public board meetings with city officials.

During our monthly strategy team meetings, I have found that my opinion counts. We have real discussions that are shared around the room and other leader’s opinions are considered before action is taken. I have enjoyed the dialogue from a community of people like myself.  We are not looked at as outsiders, but as thought partners and leaders. 

The team at Stand for Children makes you feel like you are part of their families in the education circle.  Not only does my opinion count, but being a leader at Stand has allowed me to find and use my voice to address certain issues at public events and public board meetings with city officials.

I am excited that we are launching the H.E.R.O. attendance awareness campaign. H.E.R.O. stands for Here, Every Day, Ready and On Time. Teachers are working hard along with Stand for Children to make sure that all parents understand that their babies need to be at school every day and get to class on time. If they’re not there, they can’t learn.

My leadership at Stand for Children has also given me the opportunity to create my own nonprofit organization, Fathers in Education, to help fight for education for children. Fathers In Education, along with Stand for Children and other nonprofit businesses in Memphis, will make the change and a difference. We will continue our mission and fight very hard to be a hero for our children.*

To learn more about Stand Tennessee or for information on how you can take action in your school like Isadore, visit our homepage at www.stand.org/Tennessee

Children in Memphis have spent their summers challenging themselves to read. Stand celebrated their achievements on Friday by treating them to prizes, books, and school supplies at a Back to School celebration at the Hattiloo Theatre.

Roughly 61% of 3rd graders in Shelby County were not reading on grade level last year. Many children lose as much as 2-3 months of reading and spelling skills over the summer while they are not in school. Over the course of elementary school, this can put them the equivalent of nearly 3 grade levels behind their peers.

Students taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge followed weekly reading activities, attended reading events, and kept track of their progress. Denerio, a student at Leadership Preparatory Charter School, read 44 books this summer! He was very proud of his accomplishment and hopes to read 1,000 books by the end of the year.

Thanks to everyone who participated, the Shelby County Schools Family and Community Engagement Division, and the Hattiloo Youth Theatre for their stunning spoken word performances!

As Stand for Children celebrates 20 years as an organization, hear from one of our awesome parent leaders, Ginger Spickler, on how joining and being involved with Stand has impacted her life.

I first got involved in Stand during the Memphis City School charter surrender issue, as a way of learning more about why that was happening and what it would mean for our schools. Stand provided not only education on the issue, but provided training on how to make my voice heard during the charter surrender and the Transition Planning Commission’s work immediately after. It was incredibly empowering.

One of the best opportunities Stand afforded me was serving as a facilitator in several Stand UP (University for Parents) courses. I was able to share a lot of what I’d learned about how education works, how we can best support our kids in school, and how we can use our voices as parents to fight for better opportunities for them. It was so rewarding to see parents come back week after week for the class (not for my fabulous facilitating, I know!), but because they were learning so much from each other and feeling more empowered week after week. 

 I was able to share a lot of what I’d learned about how education works, how we can best support our kids in school, and how we can use our voices as parents to fight for better opportunities for them. 

Since joining Stand, I have gained a great deal of confidence in being able to speak up about the education issues that affect Memphis children. I even started a website called Memphis School Guide that serves as a resource to parents about how to find the right school for their children. Being a member of Stand definitely helped give me the knowledge and confidence I needed to take on that challenge. I’ve also met people from throughout our community who I may never have crossed paths with otherwise, but who also have similar concerns about the quality of education their children are getting, and how we might do better by them.

I’m a member of Stand because I have concerns about education in Memphis and beyond, and I believe that Stand for Children has been one of the strongest forces locally for organizing parents and other stakeholders to represent the best interests of kids. As a parent, I see firsthand how challenges in our schools impact my own children and the others they go to school with. We can complain about those challenges, or we can try to make them better—Stand helps me do the latter.

For more information on how you can get involved with Stand, visit www.stand.org/Tennessee

This year, as Stand for Children celebrates its 20th anniversary as an organization, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on our history in Tennessee.

Since 1999, Stand Tennessee has worked to improve schools across Tennessee and achieve legislative and electoral victories for all students across the state. With affiliate offices in both Nashville and Memphis—founded in 2001 and 2005 respectively—we have actively worked to organize the collective power of parents, teachers, and community members to be a voice for children and make lasting changes in our education system.

Here are some of our highlights over the past 15 years:

  • In 2006, Stand played a pivotal role in influencing the Shelby County Commission to vote unanimously to fully fund budget requests for Memphis and Shelby County Schools.
  • In 2008, Stand Nashville secured the release of $100 million in lottery funds to create an “Energy Efficient Schools Initiative” resulting in significant savings to be used to maintain school facilities and build new schools.
  • Stand Memphis endorsed and campaigned in 2012 for the new unified school board in Shelby County. Members phone banked, canvassed, worked the polls and reached out to 30,000 likely voters and successfully won 4 out of the 7 seats on the board.
  • In the last two election cycles, Stand Nashville has endorsed and supported five successful candidates for the MNPS Board.
  • In 2012, Stand Memphis was one of the first affiliates to launch Stand UP, a 10-week course for a university of parents who want to set their children up for success. The program graduated over 200 parents across the community.
  • In 2013, Stand saved 42 pre-K classrooms from closure and gathered over 2000 petition signatures, benefiting 840 children state-wide.
  • Successfully advocated for $70 million in federal funding for pre-K in Tennessee, securing grants for both Memphis and Nashville in 2014.
  • This year, Stand Memphis was successful in working with Memphis charter school parents to advocate for the Shelby County Schools Board to pass a charter compact that would start to build a partnership between the district and the charter school it authorizes. In a unanimous decision, the Charter Compact was passed.

And this is just the beginning! None of these great things could have happened without the hard work and dedication of our members, community leaders, great staff, and supporters.

As we continue working in Tennessee to ensure that all children have a quality education with access to college or career training, we want you to get involved to see how you can help impact education in your community.

For learn more about Stand for Children Tennessee, visit www.stand.org/tennessee. 

Stand for Children Memphis Summit Inspires Parents & Leaders to Action

Stand for Children Memphis hosted its second annual Education Action Summit on Saturday, April 30. The event, held at Playhouse on the Square, brought Stand members, parents, teachers, education and elected leaders together to discuss pertinent issues related to the state of education in Memphis, and to outline action plans to impact policy that will improve local schools.

During the half-day convening, participants were briefed on state legislative activity, Stand’s local education policy agenda, and school funding.

Guest speakers included: Tennessee State Senator Lee Harris; Tennessee State Representative Raumesh Akbari; Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner; Shelby County Schools (SCS) Commissioner Chris Caldwell; and SCS administrators Natalia Powers, Angela Carr, and Taurus Currie.

Following a series of interactive discussions with guest speakers, the Summit focus shifted to identifying specific ways for parents and residents to take action. Stand for Children Organizers facilitated group breakout sessions where participants formed plans to advocate for and influence policy decisions regarding public education.

“We designed the Summit to not just provide information, but also be a launching point into action to support the education of our children,” said Cardell Orrin, Stand for Children Memphis City Director.

“We recognize that the lack of parental involvement [in schools] can often be attributed to a lack of information and opportunities to engage. We wanted to give our members and other concerned residents a chance to learn more about the people and work that is occurring to increase local academic achievement, and help them uncover their own individual power to positively impact students and schools.“

Approximately 50 guests attended Saturday’s Education Action Summit. Among them was Zipporah Robinson, a local community leader who is passionate about supporting children.

“The nation is only as strong as its future, and that is our youth,” Robinson said.

“I realized there is a lot I don’t know and some of the statistics that I heard today from our county and school board commissioners are staggering…their presentations struck a nerve and showed me how necessary this work is. There is a real need to educate ourselves and learn how we can invoke change in our educational system(s).”

Amber Mitchell, a Stand for Children Leader at Leadership Preparatory Charter School where her son attends, was also encouraged by the Summit programming.

“It was very informative and it was nice to be around people with the same energy and passion for education advocacy,” said Robinson.

“I feel like citizens are really taking ownership now of what’s going on and willing to do their part instead of letting commissions and school boards dictate and make decisions without involving the people it really affects. We all have a role to play and everyone has a gift that they can use to help our children. In Stand, there’s room for everybody at every level to work together and to inspire others to action.


As a follow-up to the work at the Summit around the upcoming school funding needs, we encourage all education supporters to attend the following meetings:

SCS Budget Community Meeting
Monday, May 9, 2016
Location: Cummings Elementary
Time: 6:00 p.m.

SCS Budget Community Meeting
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Location: Dexter Elementary
Time: 6:00 p.m.

Board of Education Workshop – Budget Review
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Location: SCS Central Office Auditorium
Time: 4:00 p.m.

Board of Education – Final Budget Vote
Monday, May 16, 2016
Location: SCS Central Office Auditorium
Time: 4:00 p.m.

County Commission Education Budget Presentation
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Location: VAsco A. Smith, Jr. County Administration Building
160 N. Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Time: 8:30 a.m. 

Stand for Children Memphis is also partnering with Shelby County Schools and other education advocates on implementing the county-wide ‘Students Deserve More’ awareness campaign, which highlights a critical need to increase funding for schools. The initiative is in response to school budget cuts that have occurred over the past three years. Most recently, the SCS Board announced it would cut $36 million from the 2016-2017 budget to close a gap that has persisted.



Stand for Children Tennessee’s mission is to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, a college education or career training. Learn more at www.stand.org/tennessee.

For over a year, we have been working with Memphis charter school parents to advocate for the Shelby County Schools Board to pass a charter compact that would start to build a partnership between the district and the charter school it authorizes.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting—in front of a packed room full of parents, students, educators, principals, administrators and education advocacy groups joined together in support of the agreement—the board members unanimously voted to pass the Charter Compact!

Cardell Orrin, Memphis City Director, feels that this is the first step in building a partnership between SCS and their charter schools.

What we see it as the board saying, ‘yes, we recognize we have charter schools in our landscape. They are a growing part of the district. They are an important part of the district and we have to interact with them.

Read more about the agreement and how SCS and charter schools plan to work more closely.

Memphis Organizer, London Lamar, has been a strong advocate for this issue for over a year is excited about its passing and what it means for the children in Memphis.

Working on the charter compact was a humbling experience because we helped so many families and schools make continuous gains for the children’s education. I hope this victory continues to empower parents to keep mobilizing on behalf of our children! 

While this was indeed a win for our Memphis team, this was an even bigger win for the all of the students in Shelby County.

Regardless of where we send our kids to school, they are all deserving of a quality education and it is our duty to ensure that we make that possible.

In the words of London, ” One win down! Another to go!”

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you may have heard about TNReady, the new Tennessee state assessment test that’s starting this year.

TNReady is not an extra test, but a new and improved version of the old TCAP test for Math and English that will be administered for the first time this school year in grades 3-12. 

To ensure that you and your child are adequately prepared for the new assessment test and changes, Stand for Children is hosting a series of community meetings to help you and your child get TNReady.

These meetings are designed to share important information with you about the new tests and to answer any questions that you may have. This also a great opportunity for you to become involved with us and learn how to better prepare your child for success. 

Check out the list of available locations, dates, and times for upcoming TNReady community meetings happening in the Shelby County area below. These informational sessions are free, so join us and invite a friend!

For more information, contact Amariah Tyler at [email protected]

Hickory Hill Community Thursday, November 19, 2015 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Greater Community Temple C.O.G.I.C. 5151 Winchester Road, Memphis, TN 38118 RSVP: Nikeisha Royston at [email protected]

South Memphis Community Tuesday, December 1, 2015 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Boys & Girls Club of Memphis Technical Training Center 903 Walker Ave, Memphis, TN 38106 RSVP: Nikeisha Royston at [email protected]

Westwood Community Monday, December 7, 2015 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Charles Powell Westwood Community Center 810 Western Park Dr., Memphis, TN 38109 RSVP: London Lamar at [email protected]