Take a Stand for children’s education
By Ginger Spickler
I am not a bumper sticker person. I can count on one hand the number of stickers I’ve affixed to my cars during the 20 years I’ve been driving, and probably still have a finger or two left over. It’s certainly not that I don’t have strongly held beliefs, but I generally like to explain myself using a few more words than will fit in that small space.
But my wheels are currently sporting not one, but two, bumper stickers. The first is a small, white sticker with the logo of Peabody Elementary — that one was not a hard decision because 1) I’m proud of my son’s school, and 2) did I mention it was small?
But the second bumper sticker was a tougher sell. It’s big. And a bright teal color, that, while not unattractive, is certainly not subtle. You can see it clear across the Target parking lot. But after carrying it around in my car for a couple of months, I finally peeled off the backing and stuck it on my bumper last week for a simple reason — I want people to know that I do, in fact, “Stand for Children” and hope that you will too.
I’ve been a member of Stand for Children for only about a year and a half, but during that time, I have had ample opportunity to do just what the organization’s name suggests. I’ve donned my teal Stand T-shirt or button and attended school board meetings, city council meetings, Transition Planning Commission meetings, rallies to support our city’s students, and committee meetings where we have hashed out our advocacy positions. We have worked on a platform that demands a comprehensive plan for early childhood education, policies that will ensure an effective teacher in every classroom, rigorous standards for all schools, and more students college ready. Across Shelby County, I don’t believe there is another grassroots organization that is having a greater positive influence on the future of education in our community than Stand.
Stand’s Tennessee director is Kenya Bradshaw, who lives and works here in Memphis, and was last year named to the TPC — a group that is working diligently and thoughtfully to make recommendations for the merged district. The director of Stand’s Memphis chapter, Mark Sturgis, has a prominent role in the process as well. But both of them turn to people just like me — parents and community members from across Shelby County — for input on the things they are advocating for in the new district. And as the TPC plan begins to take shape, it’s clear that our voices are being heard.
Stand’s next major role will probably be its most important yet for the future of the merged district. A team of Stand members is currently conducting in-depth interviews with every candidate who will be running for school board in the Aug. 2 election. Based on these interviews, this team will recommend a slate of candidates that we believe will be most likely to,stand for children during their terms in office.
School board elections are not typically high-turnout affairs. In the most recent elections, Sara Lewis, a longtime Memphis politician and previous school board member, won by 119 votes in a runoff election that attracted only 2.6 perecent of the 60,000 registered voters in the district. The lesson here? We cannot complain about the leadership we get if we fail to educate ourselves on the candidates and then show up at the polls to support the best ones.
Fortunately for you, Stand is doing the heavy lifting of vetting the candidates — be on the lookout before the August election for our recommendations. Our research is just beginning, but it appears that there are excellent options in each district. Agree or disagree with the consolidation, but it is undeniable that it has prodded a number of good people to enter the fight for our kids’ education.
However, Stand’s recommendations won’t matter if folks don’t turn out at the polls — or worse, if they do, but vote for the same old leadership that has gotten us to where we are today. So, get informed and then get active. Make sure everyone you know has the Aug. 2 election on their calendar and knows where to turn for voting recommendations. You can tweet it, you can Facebook it, you can tell your book club and your softball team.
Or, if you’re really serious like me, you can stick it on the back of your car.
Visit www.stand.org/tn to become a member or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get your own bumper sticker.