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The East High Alumni Page presents:

East High T-STEM Optional School
(Transportation-Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)

East High School, Memphis, Tennessee

    Reports on an East High T-STEM Optional School appear in various places on this website: In the news..., News Briefs, and Today's East High pages. This page attempts to consolidate all those reports in reverse chronological order. Neither the pre-existing Virtual STEM program nor the Engineering Optional Program reports are included on this page unless they directly relate to the T-STEM Optional School.

Superintendent: "My job is to protect East High."

June 19, 2019 - Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray says, "My job is to protect East High." He tells The East High Alumni Page he will probably next spring share a vision for the future path of East. Read more on our Today's East High page.

New Principal at East High

May 20, 2019 - East High has a new principal, Dr. Newman Robertson. His main focus is the traditional curriculum at East. See our Today's East High page for more information.

T-STEM Classes 2018 End of Course Test Results

September 8, 2018 - Evaluating the attempt to return East High to academic excellence (as well as reasonable enrollment figures) during the transition of one grade at a time largely depends on the results of the End of Course (EOC) testing. For the 2017-2018 school year, only the ninth grade was optional-only T-STEM. End of Course figures for the entire high school (grades 9-12) were available here earlier, now we have EOC scores for the 9th grade only. This chart compares the East High full high school scores to the 9th grade EOC scores. Of course, the classes the students take in different grades often are different, so perhaps while valuable, these comparisons are not direct. For a comparison of the full high school figures to those of some other high schools in the county, see our previous report.

East High Grades 9-12 & 9th Grade Only End of Course Test Scores
Course:  ENGLISH
2018 mastered or on-track
Grades 9-12        
Grade 9 (only)
English 1     45.5 % 

Course: MATH
2018 mastered or on-track
Grades 9-12  6.8%                   
Grade 9 (only)
Algebra 1   14.8%
Algebra 2   50 % 
          Geometry     25%               

Course:  SCIENCE
2018 mastered or on-track
Grades 9-12  24.7%                   
Grade 9 (only)
Biology    79.1%               

"How one Memphis school is grappling to attract
high-achieving students while also educating those left behind

"When parent and longtime Binghampton resident Lee Evans heard about the plan last year to require students to take a test to enroll at the iconic East High School, he didn’t understand why that meant some students in the neighborhood could not attend.
   "Evans, an alumnus, worried they would drop out if they couldn’t attend East. He also worried the neighborhood would lose its longstanding connection with the school."
Read the article: Chalkbeat, Aug. 31, 2018

What’s in a name? Newspaper article raises question
as to East High School's name

January 5 - A newspaper article Jan. 5 referred to the school as “East T-STEM Academy, formerly known as East High.” For now at least, the official name of the school remains “East High School.” There have been comments during the planning process to begin the T-STEM optional program at East about changing or modifying the school’s name, and in promotions and signs the district has called the new program the “T-STEM Academy at East High.”  Read more ...

Cummins, FedEx, U of M launching global tech program at East's T-STEM Academy

January 2, 2018
By Elle Perry  –  Digital Producer, Memphis Business Journal

Cummins Inc. is bringing a global program to a Memphis high school, marking a first for the company.

Cummins currently has 22 Technical Education for Communities [TEC] sites around the globe, though none are currently located within the U.S. But, on Thursday, that will change as the company and its more than 10 local partners sign a Memorandum of Understanding to mark the official launch of the initiative at T-STEM Academy East High School.

Read more at the Memphis Business Jouranl web site.

November 20, 2017-The Shelby County School board will consider approving a sponsorship agreement between  FedEx Corporation and the SchoolSeed Foundation in which FedEx will be given naming rights to the aviation lab at East and in return the corporation, through the SchoolSeed, will provide $250,000 in equipment for the lab. At the board’s Capital Needs & Facilities Committee Meeting Monday afternoon, no opposition was expressed by any of the board members present. Equipment likely includes flight simulators. According to the proposed agreement, among the benefits to FedEx are naming rights with prominent display of its name on the Aviation Lab at East High, its logo on promotional material produced for the T-STEM Academy at East, direct access to students to highlight career options for the next 4 years. FedEx will route the payments at a rate of $50,000. Although the proposed agreement indicates FedEx will not be responsible for other cots related to the equipment, Vince McCaskill, Executive Director of SchoolSeed, says not only will FedEx provide updates for the equipment during the term of the agreement but he believes this is the first of donations likely to come from FedEx for East High’s T-STEM program. The proposal is expected come up for approval by vote of the Shelby County Board of Education at the December 5, 2017, board meeting, 160 S. Hollywood St, 4pm.

Ready. Set. Go!
East High Begins the transition to an application only T-STEM school

Photo: East High ninth grade T-STEM students arrive at the buildings on the Walnut Grove side of campus to being the first day of classes as the school begins its transition to an all optional, admission by application and qualification, institution. The dozen or so seen entering the west entrance of the T-STEM building were greeted by faculty.

August 7, 2017 - Look! Up there! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a super school!

Those sentences, a take off from the old Superman series, reflect both the hopes for a much better educational institution and, perhaps, the need for a superman-like effort to make it so.

Today East High, once described by the newspaper as a school which “grandly sits on top of a hill at Poplar and Holmes, looking from a distance more like a small, wealthy college campus than a high school,” marked its first day of classes as a partial T-STEM (Transportation oriented Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math focused) optional (magnet) school.

If you looked up on the hill this morning and saw the students entering what once was the building erected on the campus in 1984 to house optional programs, you saw ninth graders, all of whom are attending East after applying and meeting the qualifications to be in the T-STEM program. A program that is being called the “T-STEM Academy at East High School.”

According to the Shelby County Schools Chief of Communications, as of Friday there were 90 students registered for the T-STEM program. The target enrollment has been 100. In January, it was said that the T-STEM program was committed to serving as many qualified students as applied. Although it may not be applicable to optional school students who desire, or their parents desire, to attend a special school, the district has a history of late registration among its students. It could be several days, or a few weeks, before the final T-STEM attendance is established.

This year, T-STEM students will study in the 1976 and 1984 buildings north of the original structure. For lunch and physical education or other gym uses, they will go to the main building. Traditional curriculum students will have classes in the 1948 building.

While the original building does sit on a rise as noted by the newspaper, the higher hill was behind the original building but the 1984 optional program building and the 1976 Vo-Tech building substantially reduced the hill that was on the Walnut Grove side of the campus.

Reduced, too, in recent years has been the enrollment at East High. Last year the count was about 522. The buildings could accommodate 1,500 or more. Overall academic performance has been down for many years. The average composite ACT score for 2016, the latest publicly available, was 15.7 (approximately equivalent to a 12 on the pre-1989 ACT).

The Shelby County School district has closed more than 20 schools in recent years and has been looking hard at schools with chronic low enrollment and poor academics. The state has taken over poor performing schools and putting them in its Achievement School District, which has had questionable success in attempting to turn around the academic achievement.

Looking at East High with its majestic architecture, great central location, a $12-million renovation a decade ago, a history of academic excellence in the past, the district administration decided it needed to do something to save the school.

That something is to make East High an optional only, admission by application and qualification T-STEM school. For this school year, only the ninth grade is T-STEM, although administrators have promised an enhanced educational experience for the traditional students in grades ten through twelve. Next year T-STEM adds the tenth grade, the following year the eleventh. Then in 2020-2021, according to the plans all the students at East High will be T-STEM optional students.

So today, as those 90 or so ninth graders entered East High, the 69 year old school itself began an new era in its history and a new chapter in the history of local high schools. It will be the only entirely STEM high school in the area when the transition is complete.

Will it save the school? Will East High once again become a place of high academic performance and good citizenship? A lot of people believe it will. Expectations are high and if those expectations are consistently applied to the work of the students, there may yet be more glory days for East High.

Parents upset kids can`t attend East High School

August 4, 5, 2017, WREG
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Parents in Binghampton packed the Lester Community Center Friday evening to voice concerns about some changes at East High School.

Starting this year, the only new students East High School will enroll are those accepted into its new ninth grade STEM program (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

"I feel like it’s just like Jim Crow. They legally separating our students because they want the cream of the crop," said Jacquelyn Webb.

Webb said she was shocked to her learn her 15-year-old wouldn't be able to transfer to East as a tenth grader, and that he and other non-STEM students who live near East High School, will have to be bused to either Douglass High School or Melrose High School.

Shelby County Schools said the changes shouldn't come as any shock.

"Since last fall, we’ve been communicating with families, we’ve had about six or seven community meetings," said SCS spokeswoman Natalia Powers.

But Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland, who attended Friday's meeting, blasted the idea of busing students.

"It doesn’t make any money sense when you’re talking about having to take children all the way across town to another school," said Roland.

Current East High School students can remain at the school without enrolling in the STEM program.

A New Era at East High Begins
An Overview of the T-STEM Program

by The East High Alumni Page
 July 31, 2017 - East High has gone through a number of significant transitions during its 69 year existence. It is beginning another one now. Today the teachers report to work, a week later, on August 7, students begin classes.

The new era for East High is the transition to an all optional (magnet) school with a special Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum, with Transportation being an example upon which it will focus (T-STEM). This first year, all ninth grade students will be in T-STEM. The program will expand a grade each year until all four (nine through 12) are fully populated by T-STEM students.

To be admitted to the T-STEM program required the student to apply and qualify. The East High Alumni Page has reported on the admission requirements previously. Students in the T-STEM program must maintain the requirements to continue in it.

Administrators have indicated not only increased rigor and expectations for the “T-STEM Academy” but also enhanced learning opportunities for the traditional curriculum students who remain at East during the transition.

In this article, The East High Alumni Page will outline the T-STEM program.

Students in the T-STEM program will be asked to choose to follow one or more of three specific career paths that are designed to offer deeper knowledge and skill in those areas: engineering, aviation, and transportation and logistics. In each case, particular classes are mandated during each grade year.

As you note, each of the three tracks start with Project Lead the Way (PLTW). That is described as a broad spectrum engineering course. The PLTW course is outlined by the PLTW nonprofit organization (see pltw.org) that says it provides:
    a transformative learning experience for ... students and teachers... empowers students to develop in-demand, transportable knowledge and skills through pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. PLTW’s teacher training and resources support teachers as they engage their students in real-world learning.

    Through our programs, students develop in-demand, transportable skills – such as problem solving, critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and communication – that they will use both in school and for the rest of their lives, on any career path they take.
Classes for the T-STEM Academy at East High School, as it is being called, begin at 8:15 weekday mornings. On Monday’s they go to 4:15, on the other days they conclude at 3:15. The T-STEM academic classrooms and laboratories are housed in the buildings built on the campus in 1976 (as the Vo-Tech building) and in 1984 (as the health science and engineering optional program building). It remains open to students until 5:15 if they wish to work on projects or, perhaps, to pass the time until a parent or guardian can pick them up. Since optional programs at Shelby County Schools are open to students district-wide, transportation is not provided by the school system.

Monday’s are special for T-STEM students at East for two reasons. First, it’s the only day of the week they are required to wear a school uniform. Secondly, it is “Genius Day.” Genius Day is a concept in which students are allowed to explore their own interests generally within the parameters of the curriculum. Initially students will be assigned a project to work on during Genius Day to help them learn how to design a project. After the first nine week period, however, students may select their own project, with teacher approval, or accept one assigned by faculty. Genius Day also includes special support classes in math, English, science, history, world (foreign) languages. If a student has less than a 93 grade average in any of those classes, he or she is required to attend the support class for that discipline. If they have a 93 or above, they may use the time for extra work on their Genius Day project. Since there are five disciplines with support classes and each lasts an hour, should a student be required to attend only one of those support sessions, they still get four additional hours to work on their projects.

The support classes are unusual in that they last one hour. The T-STEM program is on a block schedule. In that structure, each regular class lasts 90 minutes and meets every other day, Tuesday through Friday.


A spokesperson says each T-STEM student will be administered the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator test and perhaps another personality determination test. The tests will help determine, for example, if a student is reserved or outgoing. It was explained that collaborative study groups will be formed to provide a mix of personality types, that several "turbochargers" in the same group might not be the most beneficial combination. A category of turbocharger apparently applies to an individual who is very outgoing, perhaps aggressive, in their pursuit and expression. You will see turbochargers have their own column in the Genius Day schedule along with those others in the Aviation, Transportation and Engineering categories.

In this first year of the T-STEM program, the following optional classes are offered:
•    Honors English 9 or CLUE (Creative Learning in a Unique Environment) English
•    Honors Geometry, Honors Algebra I or II
•    Honors Physical World Concepts, Honors Chemistry, or Honors Biology
•    Honors World Language (Latin or Spanish)
•    Honors World Geography or Honors World History
•    Lifetime Wellness
•    Introduction to Engineering
•    Electives

Electives offered this year are:
•    Theater Arts
•    Facing History and Ourselves
•    Dance
•    AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) (see AVID.org)
•    Intro to Fine Arts
•    Visual Art I Honors
•    General Music
•    Senior Band I Honors
•    Interactive Multimedia and Design
•    Multi Media Presentation I, II.

East High has provided a sample schedule for students in the T-STEM program .


T-STEM students are eligible to participate in East High athletics. Junior varsity teams during the 2017-2018 school year will consist only of ninth grade students (therefore all participants on JV teams will be T-STEM students).

Shelby County Schools has previously established a virtual STEM school open to any qualified student in the district. The laboratory for hands-on work in the virtual STEM school is at East High. T-STEM students may also participate in the virtual STEM program.

It’s a new era at East High, a school which has changed, or been changed, a number of times over the decades. Administrators have high expectations for success of the school as it transforms into a T-STEM optional school.

[This article was edited to include the specific test given to help determine personality types and to further explain the purpose of the tests.]

Coming soon: a photographic tour of the T-STEM buildings.

TV report: Local Cool School: East High Transportation STEM Academy
New school prepares students with science, technology and math focus

July 17, 2017 - Memphis television station WATN, Channel 24, has done a news story on the preparation at East High for the ninth grade T-STEM program which begins in less than a month. View it for an unknown period of time at: WATN

Editorial: Struggling East High could be among our jewels

The Commercial Appeal, July 6, 2017

There are plenty of reasons to cheer for and support a plan that could revive the academically struggling East High School, from the important role East played in the city’s post-war history of eastward expansion to its elegant baroque facade.

The 69-year-old campus where Cybill Shepherd ['68], Mike Cody ['54] and Mason Granger matriculated enjoys near iconic status among many of the city’s movers and shakers as well as those of us who simply cast an admiring glance in its direction as we drive by.

It “grandly sits on top of a hill at Poplar and Holmes, looking from a distance more like a small, wealthy college campus than a high school,” a Commercial Appeal writer opined in 1982.

The description still applies.

So there is a lot riding on the school's transition to an optional T-STEM (Transportation-oriented Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) school, which will start when the school’s 9th graders enroll in the fall and advance annually one grade at a time.

Eventually, the entire school will be filled with students who aren’t required to live in East’s attendance zone but who qualify for Shelby County Schools’ optional program, want to get more about of their public school education and desire to add their names to East’s illustrious alumni roster.

An ambitious Aviation Career Education (ACE) program, which recently completed a summer camp at the school to introduce students to this important sector of Memphis’ transportation and distribution industry, should be focused and purposeful, giving students at an early age the motivation to care about their academic performance and the kind of long-term goals that will help keep them in school.

The program is a joint effort involving Shelby County Schools, the University of Memphis and several community partners that will feature project-based learning experiences, the opportunity to earn college credit and certifications for occupational skills.

Students will benefit from the advice and instruction of professionals who are knowledgeable in their field and accessible. The school is expected to see reversals in declining enrollment and declining test scores that have put the school at risk of closure.

East, which could accommodate as many as 1,300 students, has a current enrollment of about 500. It finished 2016 with a 35 percent proficiency rating in English, compared with 40 percent for the district and 60 percent for the state of Tennessee, according to research on U.S. News and World Report's web site.

If things go as planned, East could be more than a Memphis icon saved from an unfortunate demise. It could turn out to be a jewel among Shelby County’s public schools, perhaps even a model for other local industries that want to develop talent and help build the kind of workforce Memphis needs to realize its economic potential.

[The East High Alumni Page Editor's note: if the former employee of WMC-TV Mason Granger ever attended our East High School, it is unknown to this publication. Certainly his name does seem to appear in any available high school lists that would normally be associated with his approximate graduation date.]

Twenty-five Percent of T-STEM Seats Filled as of May 1

By The East High Alumni Page
May 2, 2017 - More than three months after recruitment began for East High transition to a Transportation focused Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math optional (magnet) high school starting with the ninth grade in August, about 25% of an estimated 100 seats are committed to successful applicants.

The number of available spots for students has been said to be flexible. Initially the administration indicated 100 for the new T-STEM curriculum and 25 more for the existing engineering optional program. In January, however, an administration official said the school would accommodate all that applied and qualified for admission to the program. It is reported by the school district that a total of 60 applications for the T-STEM program have been received. Optional school applicants are asked to list their top three preferences of schools to attend. It is not known to The East High Alumni Page if the 60 that have applied to East have listed the school as their top choice or one of their alternate choices.

Given the annually reported demand for admission to the top optional school programs that Shelby County Schools operates, that only 25 ninth grade applicants have been accepted seems to indicate a rather slow pace of interest in the new program. Despite that number, however, SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson told The East High Alumni Page he fully expects the 100 positions to be filled. Other administrators have said the same over the past several weeks while admitting the initial demand has been light.

As has been reported here and elsewhere, only the ninth grade will be T-STEM at East this coming school year, although a few other students in the higher grades enrolled in the existing engineering optional program will also be afforded T-STEM opportunities. Under the current plan a new grade will be added each year until the 2020-2021 school year when all four grades at East will be by application and qualification only into the T-STEM program. This gives students currently in grades 9-12 at East the chance to graduate from the school, assuming normal academic progression.

The SCS administration reports FedEx is in the process of submitting a large application for supporting the T-STEM program which will include a multi-year campaign and will focus on a call center, flight training, and ground logistics. Exactly what was meant by "submitting" an application was not immediately clear.

In addition, Cummins Diesel was reported to be "applying for a large application for multi-year support." For the district administration to be mentioning this applying for an application one would suspect it to be more definitive than it sounds.

As The East High Alumni Page has reported, the T-STEM ninth graders' classes will be in the newer buildings on the East campus, originally built as a vo-tech center and for the engineering and health sciences optional programs. As part of the preparation, walls are being repositioned, tiles in ceiling and floors are being replaced and the entire interior is being repainted.

The district administration reports seven teacher vacancies remain to be filled at East.Furthermore, it appears the earlier selected faculty are considered recommendations at this point rather than firm hires. All teacher positions for the next school year required application, even if the faculty member was already teaching at East.

Superintendent Hopson said that he thought it will take a successful ninth grade T-STEM year for the program to gain the confidence of the community resulting in higher demand for admission. He cited a reputation East has of being a less than safe place to send one's children as a likely reason parents or guardians may be slow to enroll their children at East. He thinks an academically and safety successful T-STEM ninth grade year will begin to change perceptions of the school and lead to more confidence in it. Hopson says Shelby County Schools remains fully committed to the T-STEM optional program over the coming years.

Special Course Applications Approved for Submission to State
Furniture expenditure also approved

April 26, 2017 - The Shelby County Board of Education last night approved application to the Tennessee Department of Education to hold a number of "special courses" at East High School and/or Memphis Virtual School at East High. While some of the courses will also be offered at other schools, the core STEM courses for the "T-STEM Academy at East High" are exclusive to East. Those are:
  • Biotechnology Special Program of Study  Memphis Virtual School (STEM at East High)
    •         Introduction to Engineering (STEM)
    •         Green Methods (STEM)
    •         Materials Science (STEM)
    •         Principals of Engineering (STEM)
    •         Foundations in Biotechnology (STEM)
  • Civil/Architectural Foundations Special Program of Study    Memphis Virtual School (STEM at East High)
    •     Introduction to Engineering (STEM)
    •     General Fabrications Methods (STEM)
    •     Principals of Engineering (STEM)
    •     Architecture and Construction (STEM) 
  •  Energy Special Program of Study  Memphis Virtual School (STEM at East High)
    •     Introduction to Engineering (STEM)
    •     Green Methods (STEM)
    •     Engineering Technology (STEM)
    •     Principals of Engineering (STEM)
    •     EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) Capstone (STEM)
In  addition, the following  special course applications not only are for classes at East High but also at other SCS schools:
Etymology (East High & 12 other schools), Etymology Honors (East High & 12 other schools), Facing History and Ourselves (Year-Long) (East High and 33 other schools), Facing History and Ourselves Honors (Year-Long) (East High and 33 other schools), Facing History and Ourselves (Semester)  (East High and 33 other schools), Facing History and Ourselves Honors (Semester)  (East High and 33 other schools), Humanities (all high schools), Humanities Honors (all high schools), Practical Law (all high schools), Practical Law Honors (all high schools).

The Board of Education also approved the proposal to spend $365,294 for new furniture to support the new T-STEM program at East. The school district says the new furniture, being bought from Lucas Business Solutions, will provide needed accommodations for 14 classroom/teacher rooms; 3 STEM lab areas, 1 meeting room and the main office. CTC stands for the Career Technology Center, the additional buildings added to the East High campus on the Walnut Grove Road side of the campus. The initial T-STEM classes will be held in those buildings. As an example, an area last used to cosmetology instruction is said to need different furniture to support the T-STEM program.

Dismal Weather, Dismal Turnout, Bright Expectations

By The East High Alumni Page
April 22, 2017 - It was a rainy Saturday morning as a breakfast was held for East High alumni today at the Kroc Center at the Fairgrounds. Less than a dozen East graduates attended in a banquet room that could have easily accommodated a hundred or more. Nevertheless, Executive Principal Lischa Barrett (‘91) , now Lischa Brooks, was upbeat as she made a presentation which provided a few more details about the T-STEM (Transportation oriented Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) optional (magnet) school to which East is transitioning. The alumni in attendance were also quite positive about the new direction for East High, as might be expected of those who made the effort to come to the event.

A new assistant principal Matthew Hernandez, who comes to East from Central High School where he was the "resident principal" in the New Leaders for Aspiring Principals program. In that position, he was mentored by Central High's principal Gregory McCullough. Hernandez is a graduate of Stony Brook University where he majored in biology (neuroscience research) and was a Phi Beta Kappa. He worked as a senior research support specialist at the State University of New York focusing on microbiology projects. Hernandez then began his career in education as a science teacher in public schools in New York City, as an adjunct instructor at St. Francis College, and at Williamsburg Charter School. He went on to get his Master's in Education at City University of New York-Brooklyn College in 2016. Hernandez then joined the Aspiring Principals program and came to Memphis in the summer of 2016.

Barrett said starting with the coming school year every student at East High, whether in the optional program or the traditional curriculum, will be assigned a "laptop device" for the purpose of blended learning, a methodology which combines online digital media with traditional classroom practices. Since only the ninth grade will be fully T-STEM optional students for the 2017-2018 term, they will be in the newer buildings, formerly known as the Career Technical Center and/or the vo-tech buildings. Barrett said the ninth grade academy will always be housed there. In preparation, a lot of interior construction and fix up is underway, with walls coming down and going up. There will be 14 classrooms in those buildings as well as three STEM laboratory rooms. Beginning with the new fiscal year July 1, the executive principal says renovation work will begin in the original building of East which for the coming school year will house the traditional curriculum students in grades ten through twelve but in future years will transition to T-STEM optional students in those same grades. Forty classrooms in the original building will be prepared. Restrooms in all the buildings will be upgraded. LED lighting will be employed in the school and heating, air conditioning, and plumbing will get attention.

Barrett said there are plans for an official and coordinated alumni association, including a school staff member assigned to alumni affairs and a room dedicated to the alumni association to welcome former East students. She hopes to see alumni integrated into the student activities at East.

There was also some additional information about the administrative structure at East. As The East High Alumni Page has previously reported, Barrett will be executive principal not only of East High but also of the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy middle school. As currently envisioned, Barrett will not only oversee those two programs, but also the traditional students remaining at East while the transition develops and the existing Virtual STEM Academy. While Maxine Smith, the East traditional classes, and the virtual school will also have their own principals serving under Barrett, Barrett will take on the additional role as the front line principal of the "T-STEM Academy at East High School," as the district is billing the new program.

Although the turnout was sparse, East alumni in attendance ranged from the Class of 1968 through the Class of 2001, with a couple of prospective students, at least one of which would be graduating in 2021, the first year for normal progression T-STEM students to complete the program.

Next: The East High Alumni Page will soon report much more on the T-STEM program, including class scheduling and major academic pathways.

Approval of $365,294 for T-STEM Furniture Expected

East High's Academic Performance Measurements are "daunting, downright scary"
New Executive Principal Says She Looks Past the Numbers

Exclusive by The East High Alumni Page
April 7, 2017 - "Of course, right now, when I look at the data, when I look at the numbers, it's daunting, downright scary. But those numbers aren't people. So I put the numbers to the side then I just look at the people, " says East High's Executive Principal Lischa Barrett ('91), now Lischa Brooks.

East High's overall academic performance has been dismal for many years. A succession of principals, eight in the past 21 years, have not been able to substantially raise the levels. For the past school year, 2015-2016, the average composite ACT score at East was 15.7. (For those who are more familiar with the ACT before 1989 when it changed, the 15.7 score is roughly equivalent to a composite ACT score on the old test of 12. ) That's up about a half point from the previous year. The graduation rate was cited at 76.1%, a seven point increase from the 2014-2015 rate.

The East High Alumni Page has focused on the ACT scores as the one consistent and comparable measure of academic performance for many years and believes it to be the best measurement available.

Barrett was appointed Executive Principal February 20 to lead East High into its transition into an admission-by-application-only optional (magnet) school using the transportation industry as a focus for a science, technology, engineering, and math oriented curriculum, or T-STEM for short. The conversion will take place over the next four years, with the ninth graders starting in August, 2017, being the first group of all optional students. Barrett was principal at the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy (STEAM is STEM with arts included), a middle school at what was once known as Fairview Junior High. Although she will be the top administrator at East High, her executive principal role also leaves her as the top administrator at Maxine Smith. Both schools will also have interim principals overseeing day to day operations.

"I'm over at the school [East High] almost every day and I look at the kids and that's what it's about, it's about children. And while the data is scary, while the numbers, we could talk about the graduation rate, the literacy and the math, that doesn't tell the picture," according to Barrett.
The Shelby County School system, of which East High is now a part, often describes itself as "data driven." School districts across the nation are looking at measurements in efforts to determine what is working in the classroom. If Barrett puts the numbers aside and looks at people, what does she see?

When I was talking to two young ladies [at East High] yesterday, they don't know who I am. They don't even know why I was in the building but we had a very good conversation. Those experiences are what make me forget about the data and just see the children as children... And so when I look at things that to me are daunting or that are scary, I have to remind myself that those are people that live there, that attend that school. So who am I just to stand back and say, oh, that's scary what they have to deal with. That is their life. They wake up, they go to school there and if I don't embrace that with my whole heart and see them as more than a number then I'll stay in that place of fear and I refuse to because when I see them I see children. Yeah, it is, so that's when I go walk the halls and see children – it kind of reminds me of why I came into this business in the first place.

Despite her relating to the children as people instead of numbers, Barrett admits, "There's a lot of work to be done but I can't forget we're talking about people and we're talking about a community."

The new leader at East High hopes to take a broader approach to education than just East High and Maxine Smith STEAM Academy. Barrett says she has a four pronged plan to reach out beyond the school, a plan she said she would reveal at a later date.

"The plight of East High is larger than what is in those four walls. Right? The plight of East is about our community... I think the work that needs to be done is work that has to occur outside the four walls. I have sort of, and I'll discuss it later, a plan to look at what those scaffolding things should look like, you know, within the community because we can't do it by ourselves. I can have all the ideas in the world, but there is some work that has to be done but I don't think it belongs to us as educators alone."

East High has not been isolated and alone in its efforts in recent years. For almost a decade and a half the Peer Power Foundation, originally known as The Greater East High Foundation, has held after school tutoring sessions and other academic enrichment opportunities for students without cost to them. Alumnus Chas McVean ('61) was the impetus and, for the most part, the money behind that effort, which continues to this day. Christ United Methodist Church has been involved in supporting and encouraging athletics at East. Despite these efforts, the academic achievement for the East High student body as a whole has not made significant progress, according to ACT scores.

Barrett believes that additional outside involvement will help turn the tide. "Over the past few years there have definitely been organizations like Peer Power and First Baptist Broad and I mean various organizations that have just poured in resources and people into that school and will continue to do so. And I think us continuing to work together and maybe looking at some other areas, maybe bringing in industry which is really exciting about T-STEM, is that right now we have almost 20 different companies that are going to come along side the work that's being done there right now."

It might be noted that at an open house at East High in January and at a few other occasions the number of outside entities promising support for East High STEM was touted as being 25. It is not known whether the lower number now being used repeatedly by various sources represents an actual pull back by some outfits or, probably more likely, a more realistic assessment of what kind of support an entity is likely to give.
With the broader approach, Barrett emphatically proclaims, "I believe in wrap around services!" Wraparound services are generally thought of as comprehensive plans that address multiple life situations across home, school, and community, including living environment; basic needs; safety; and social, emotional, educational, spiritual, and cultural needs (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, 2017). It often includes things such as primary health, mental health, and dental care, family engagement, including adult education,  preschool learning, academic enrichment, expanded after school learning time or summer programming, mentoring, and post secondary education and career options awareness (National Education Association, date unknown).

Barrett thinks the wider scope of services should extend beyond the East High families. " I believe reaching to the middle schools that should feed East. In the plan there won't be a per se feeder but I definitely believe in wrap around services for those potential feeders. So I think we'll still be able to tap into the community... I want to look at the students that could be here, the students that could benefit from all the industry partners that are coming along side saying, you know what, at the end of your high school career we're going to have people that are going to work with you and get you ready to get industry certified. And I think that is going to be a huge lift for the entire community."

Barrett's philosophy appears to mean she's going to be concerned and involved not only with her primary responsibilities as executive principal of East High and Maxine Smith STEM Academy but for many other students and families. "So if I just concentrate on the students that automatically come in [to East High] because of the entrance requirements, I've missed it. If I don't go in and say, you know what, if we don't do something, we can't get these kids in, you know, and they would benefit from these industry partners that want students to come out of high school with industry certification, that want kids to come out of high school an go into two year institutions with industry certifications, or in my case, graduate from East High School ready for the certified nurse's assistant exam, and go on to Ivy League schools – that's the East I went to."

Speaking about the education provided during his era, a top performing graduate of East High of the 1960s decade once said, "everyone who graduated from East High got a good education." Although a step up is provided by the T-STEM optional program's entrance requirements, including scores at or above the 50th percentile on accepted reading and math tests and a 3.0 grade point average, Barrett envisions an East High where everyone, not just the highest in academic performance, get a good education. "I have to be sensitive to what's happening in schools around the community, getting those students prepared, so, yeah, when it's time to look at that 50th percentile: that they're read. But at the same time the rigor is going to be such that students that are in the 99th percentile are going to be able to soar... There will be a lift there for everyone."

The new executive principal has laid out an extensive picture of her work: directly overseeing East High School and the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, helping guide other middle schools in preparing students for East, incorporating the support of industries and other entities that wish to contribute in some way to the new program, figuring out how to address the needs outside of the "four walls" that will foster a successful educational institution, and supporting wraparound services not only for students at her two schools but also other middle schools.

"If I only concentrate on the students that would automatically come there because they already have the 50 percentile, and I ignore the ones that, you know, with some support could be in that group, then I've done a disservice for the entire community."

The transition of East High School from a mainly traditional neighborhood school to an optional only T-STEM institution has begun with curriculum planning, setting admission requirements, the appointment of an executive principal, and requiring that all who wish to teach at East High to apply, or reapply, to do so.

It gets real in exactly four months, on August 7, 2017, when school opens with the ninth grade at East High consisting entirely of T-STEM optional students.

[Editor's note: The East High Alumni Page has a long standing policy to refer to alumni by the names by which they were known at East. In the case of Lischa Barrett this causes a dilemma. She is now connected to East not only as a former student and graduate of the school but also as its executive principal under her married name of Lischa Brooks. The East High Alumni Page is choosing to follow its policy in most references.]

East High announces an Alumni Breakfast

East High administrators will host an alumni breakfast April 22 to impart information about the changes at the school as it transitions to an optional only T-STEM (transportation oriented science, technology, engineering, and math) school. RSVP is needed by April 18. See the announcement's flyer for details.

East High's Executive Principal To Divide Time
Between East and Smith STEAM Academy

Exclusive by The East High Alumni Page

    March 19, 2017 - Lischa Barrett (‘91), now Lischa Brooks, was appointed Executive Principal of East High School February 20. In announcing the new leadership role it was explained by Shelby County Schools that "Brooks will be supported by Dr. Marilyn Hilliard [current principal] at East High, while Assistant Principal Keith Booker will serve as Interim Principal at Maxine Smith for the remaining of this school year."
    What was not clear was that Barrett would be executive principal of both East and the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, for which she was the founding principal and was still in that role when SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson placed her over East High, too. Maxine Smith is a grade six through eight fully optional middle school where academic achievement has impressed the school district. It is located in the building which once was Fairview Junior High. STEAM is like STEM but adds the A for arts.
    When Hopson asked if she would be interested in leading East High into its transition to an all-optional, enrollment-by-application-only, T-STEM (Transportation oriented focus on science, technology, engineering and math) school, Barrett says, "my first thought was yeah, and then my first-and-a-half thought was, what about STEAM?"
    "So when he asked me, I said what about STEAM, and he said ‘oh no, see you're thinking small," as Barrett reflects on the moment. She asked what he was thinking, and he said a six through twelve [grade] continuum and recalls the idea Hopson presented.
The unique thing about the way he envisions this is that as executive principal I would still have a role in both schools and so that this would end up being, maybe, a six through twelve continuum... I would still have a principal here at Maxine Smith and a principal at East High School and we all sort of work together with me as executive principal to move forward, to move this whole idea of STEM education forward and looking at it as a six through twelve continuum.
    What does that mean for East High as it begins its transition beginning, for students, in August with the new school year and completing the change over in 2020? "My primary focus right now is to get the T-STEM academy up and running and to build a really solid faculty that's committed to children and that believes, you know, in STEM education... and to make sure they have all the support that they need," says Barrett. She continues, "And then to build a culture where students are valued, that they are challenged, that they really feel inspired to think out of the box and that we are preparing them, you know, to once again strengthen our city."
    Nevertheless, Barrett now has responsibility for both schools. "I believe you can have someone who kind of embraces the middle school and high school piece and sees that there should be more of a bridge there. That's the vision he [Hopson] had for it and I'm just trying to run with it." she says.
    During a four year transition, there will be both traditional students at East, today's ninth graders will be given the chance to graduate at East through the traditional curriculum, and T-STEM or Engineering. Barrett, therefore, has responsibility not only for Maxine Smith STEAM Academy and East High's T-STEM program, but also East High's traditional curriculum students.
    "Of course I'm split. I'm here, I'm there... When you look at next school year, I've thought of a lot of different models: I've thought of three-two, two-three, half morning, half afternoon, half afternoon, half morn, I've thought of a lot of different things. I think my personality probably lends itself to be, like, being here, there, and everywhere.
    Barrett says she does not yet know exactly how the administrative functions at East will be structured after the end of this school year. She says there will be a discussion then about the leadership personnel. "I will say it's going to take a lot of people. It's going to be more than one person. It definitely won't be about me. It's going to require different leadership positions to make that happen and what that looks like I dare not tell my superintendent. So, we'll see."
    "Let me tell you what the superintendent said and so what he said is what I do. He said my job number one is to get T-STEM up and running and the day to day operations of Maxine Smith and of East High School are going to rest with the interim principals of those respective programs."

Coming soon: an important report on how Executive Principal Lischa Barrett Brooks sees East High now and her approach to the school.

[Editor's note: The East High Alumni Page has a long standing policy to refer to alumni by the names by which they were known at East. In the case of Lischa Barrett this causes a dilemma. She is now connected to East not only as a former student and graduate of the school but also as its executive principal under her married name of Lischa Brooks. The East High Alumni Page is choosing to follow its policy in most references. No disrespect is intended.]

$1.2 Million Additional Funding for East T-STEM Transition Proposed

March 13, 2017 - The Shelby County Administration today revealed highlights of the initial  2017-2018 operational budget proposal. It includes a $1.2 million "investment" in East High's T-STEM program. This money is in addition to East's budget allocation last year. Last year's budgeted amount was $2,447,321. The school system earlier this year indicated it would ask the Shelby County Commission for capital improvement funds of $2,596,500 for mechanical upgrades, lighting and interior renovations at East High.

Exclusive by The East High Alumni Page

    March 12, 2017 - Lischa Barrett ('91 and Faculty), now Lischa Brooks, thought she was going to be a medical doctor. One of her majors in college was pre-med but she eventually pursued another career. Now she is being called upon to heal an ailing East High School.
    Barrett was asked to lead East High as it transitions from an under enrolled and under performing traditional high school with one optional (magnet) program to a fully optional-only, admission-by-qualifying-application, transportation oriented science, technology, engineering, and math (T-STEM) focused high school.
    It will not be the first time Barrett is heavily involved with East High. She attended the school from seventh grade through graduation in 1991. Years later as she worked in educational administration, East was in the school district's region she helped guide.
    Growing up in the city as a native Memphian, Barrett says she did not live in the East High attendance zone but was attracted to the school because of its health sciences optional school program. She was heavily involved in the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) club, the Honor Society, the student council, and was a cheerleader. She attended a summer program in the northeast between her freshman and sophomore years and found New England to be to her liking. As an upper classman at East, Barrett joined the Memphis Challenge program, an endeavor which describes itself as one that "coaches high-achieving, underrepresented students, through leadership and professional development, preparing them to become future Memphis leaders" and was an early graduate of that program. Speaking about Memphis Challenge, Barrett says "what they wanted was for students actually, for college, to leave Memphis... but then come right back to plug into the Memphis economy and help build the city ..." She took to the program's ideals. "When I left for college I always had in my heart to come back to Memphis."
    Memphis Challenge, by the way, began as a pilot program in 1989 at East High as the idea of Memphian Pitt Hyde.
    Dartmouth College successfully recruited her. She majored in the classics, emphasis on Latin, and in pre-med.
    After college she returned to Memphis and took a job with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center as a senior research lab assistant. One of the duties in that position was to work with high school students involved in a UTHSC summer program. Barrett says one of her UTHSC colleagues who observed her interaction with the high school students told her, "you really have a knack for teaching, you're really good with kids." Barrett says she thought "yeah, I like it, this is kind of my wheelhouse, I'm enjoying what I'm doing." The associate asked her if she ever thought about teaching. Barrett's response, "it's like no, I'm going to med school." She admits, however, that exchange planted a seed.
    At the time, her high school principal at East High, Ronnie Bynum, was principal at Central High School. She had kept in contact with him since her time at East. She went to see him and told him about the teaching conversation and that she liked to teach. Barrett recalls that Bynum, said, "of course you do, I saw that in you a long time ago, you're a natural teacher."
    Barrett recalled, "[I]t was a pivotal time in my life. I was a year out of college and I wasn't really enjoying the medical field that much... decided I did not like hospitals... I really began to have some conversations with myself about what am I passionate about... and it's teaching."
    She went back to Bynum and said, "I want to teach," and he hired her. She taught Latin, "her first love," in traditional, honors, and AP (Advanced Placement) classes for eight years at Central High.
    While she was at Central, Barrett worked on a couple of projects involving computer integration in the classroom including the VRoma Project at Rhodes College which explored the teaching of classic languages with the use of computer technology (see
http://www.vroma.org/project.html). "That opened my eyes to really what technology integration looked like... I then became more interested in the technology piece."
    That interest lead Barrett to leave Central High to become a technology coordinator at Ridgeway Middle School.
    "I then made the leap over to the dark side and became an administrator," as an assistant principal at Ridgeway High. Barrett was among those helping to write the application to make Ridgeway High School the first in the then Memphis City School system to offer the International Baccalaureate program. (Memphis City Schools were merged into the county school system in 2013. Germantown High School, a county public school, had joined the International Baccalaureate association earlier the same year, 2008.)
    "[I] just really started to think about technology and thinking out of the box, about education and where we're headed and are we really preparing our students for tomorrow."

"I really missed working with kids."

    After leaving Ridgeway High, Barrett began working at the "district level," for about five years with other regional staff helping principals at 18 to 19 schools to do teacher observations, professional development, technology development, "the whole gamut, whatever the school needed..." She says she liked administration "but I really missed working with kids."
    "The opportunity came for STEAM [The Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, a grade six through eight school] and I thought it was the perfect integration of my experiences. With STEAM you have the science, the technology, the engineering, arts and math. You have all of those concepts sort of fused into one class which is the STEM class which all of our students take and then you have the students also being taught their other content areas from, I guess, a STEM focus. So, if you're in social studies, you're still learning about China but you're looking at China as far as what it looked like as far as some of the inventions that they did... That is what is really nice about this school." Barrett, as the founding principal of the Maxine Smith STEM Academy went on to say that "we built it together and we're definitely having fun over here."
    Being successful is often part of having fun on one's job and if so, Barrett probably was having fun. The Maxine Smith STEAM Academy is one of the top performing middle schools in the state.
    But something new was about to happen. "I was minding my own business when I got a phone call from the Superintendent [Dorsey Hopson] about an opportunity I could not pass up. And that I was even honored that he would ask that I would consider leading the charge for the [East High] T-STEM academy, which is an awesome, awesome opportunity for any school leader to be a part of that." Barrett's immediate thought was positive but she says, "honestly, until he asked me then I'd never thought about it," even though she sat on the panel interviewing candidates for the East High T-STEM principal position.
    The T-STEM program is obviously highly involved with modern technology. The East High Alumni Page asked Barrett about her initial interest in technology because it would seem the transition from Latin to computer technology would be unusual. "It is very unusual. I would say my interest in technology comes from my initial interest in science," she said. That interest combined with her "first love" of Latin.

I think my interest in science is what kind of fueled me to think about language a little differently. So that the project I participated in [VRoma] as a Latin teacher was teaching Latin teachers how to really make Latin something students see as relevant... what the program really wanted to get at was what technology integration would look like in education and Latin was the vehicle through which we explored that. And so as part of the VRoma project for about a year and a half I had so many different opportunities, so many different ways to explore technology and to see what that looked like. I think we were the initial people that started this whole idea of a blended learning classroom... where students would come in and have assignments on the computer... this whole idea of using the Internet in assisting in teaching about Latin. The resources we had at the time were very limited. I mean, we had the text book but it's not like you had the Latin Magazine so the students had to go out and sort of, in order to make Latin something they could relate to, they had to do a lot of research. And so technology integration, I think, was key in that.
    The use of computers was not new to Barrett. She grew up with a computer in her home and she, along with all the other students at Dartmouth, were required to have one. "So technology has always been part of my educational experience and it has always been an expectation that I would use it and that I would make it a part of what I did... Because I had some exposure to technology I saw how it could really transform a classroom. And at the time I was one of the few teachers that wanted to use technology..."
    Another side of Barrett is one that might not be in the public view save for the fact she's written a book about the topic. "One of the things I'm really passionate about, and you know when I say this people look at me like 'what?' is prayer. I spend time praying every morning and throughout the day... I think we all have challenges in life and I try to make my first response to be to step away and pray... So that's where my heart is. Even more so, I believe it is my responsibility to pray for others. The book is about the connection that we all have to one another and the responsibility we have for one another to pray for one another" and a "daily fellowship with God."
    She says she prays for "our country, for our world, for our city leaders, for my teachers, for my students, for whatever community I'm working in", and if she sees something disturbing in the media she says she tries to say a prayer right then.
    The book is entitled The Prayer Manifesto for the Globally Conscious: How to Develop a Heart to Pray for Others (iUniverse, 2013).
    There are a couple of more things in Barrett's background that connects her to East High beyond being an alumnus and having worked with the school when she was in the district's regional office. Her brother and five cousins are alumni of the school. As if that's not enough of a connection, she is married to her high school sweetheart, Brandon Brooks ('90), a 1990 graduate of East High.
    Barrett says, "I'm glad to be back. I don't think I ever left. East has always been in my heart. I still have my cheerleading uniform, you know."

In a forthcoming article, The East High Alumni Page reveals more details about the role Barrett will play as the Executive Principal of East High School.

[Editor's note: The East High Alumni Page has a long standing policy to refer to alumni by the names by which they were known at East. In the case of Lischa Barrett this causes a dilemma. She is now connected to East not only as a former student and graduate of the school but also as its executive principal under her married name of Lischa Brooks. The East High Alumni Page is choosing to follow its policy in most references. No disrespect is intended.]


New East High Executive Principal Did Not Apply For Job
School will have a "fresh start," with all teachers having to apply for positions at East

Exclusive by The East High Alumni Page
February 28, 2017 - Lischa Barrett Brooks (‘91) was in her third year as founding principal of the Maxine Smith STEM Academy at what used to be known as Fairview Junior High/Middle School. Under her leadership,  the STEAM curriculum, and a partnership with Christian Brothers University,  test scores became among the highest in the district for a middle school. The Memphis Business Journal called it the best middle school in west Tennessee.

In December, Shelby County Schools put out a job announcement for a principal for East High with STEM experience to lead it into the transition to an all optional (magnet) school focused on Transportation oriented Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (T-STEM). According to information from the school district, Ms. Brooks did not apply for the position. Apparently she had a good thing going at the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy and presumably she saw no reason to leave that school.

In early February, the school system began interviewing applicants from what it characterized as a nationwide search. At some point within a couple of weeks of the initiation of interviews, however, it appears to have occurred to Superintendent Dorsey Hopson that he had someone already employed by the school system that was a good fit for the job. Although she did not apply, he selected Ms. Brooks to orchestrate East High's transition from a traditional neighborhood school to an admission-by-application-only STEM optional school. She had played a similar role at Smith STEAM, albeit with middle school students rather than high schoolers and as a total transition rather than a year by year approach. The school with younger children flourished and Brooks' reputation among district administrators likewise shined. Furthermore, parents of students at the Smith middle school knew her and what her school had accomplished and therefore if she were at East they would be more likely to seriously consider applying to send their children to East High's T-STEM program when they were ready for high school.

So, looking for an experienced and successful STEM school leader, Hopson reached down and asked Brooks to become executive principal of East High. Usually principals take over a school during the summer so as to be on board and functioning with the beginning of a new school year. In this case, however, much is to be done. The T-STEM  curriculum at East is still being developed. While East had a small Engineering optional program, most STEM faculty needs to be selected. Since the intent is not only to make East High's focus to be on STEM but also to be an academic center of excellence, the decision has been made to refresh the entire faculty. Any teacher wishing to work at East High next school year must apply to do so, even if they are working there now. According to Shelby County School practices, the principal selects the teachers. With curriculum and staff to be decided, the new STEM principal needed to start work immediately, therefore, Brooks' assumed the new role as executive principal of East High upon her selection on February 20.

The "fresh start" of faculty at a school is one of several practices Shelby County Schools has used with its "innovation zone" (iZone) schools. Those are selected schools that have been in the lowest five percent of academic achievement according to state reports. iZone schools have been targeted by the school district for extra efforts to improve the children's accomplishments. The iZone methodology has been cited as making significant academic progress at those targeted schools. One of the elements used in iZone schools is that the principal is empowered "to pick every single staff member."

Another step in iZone schools is to add an extra hour to the school day. That is also planned for the T-STEM program at East High.

Dr. Marilyn Hilliard, appointed interim principal of East High in 2015 and in her second year at the school, will continue as interim principal, reporting to Brooks. It is likely that Brooks will have her hands full for the next few months developing the T-STEM program and recruiting faculty and students. Hillard's role is likely to continue functioning as the day to day principal of East, coordinating as needed with Brooks,  at least for the remainder of this school year. Since for the 2017-2018 school year only the ninth grade at East will be T-STEM students, either an assistant principal or a principal serving under the executive principal may continue to concentrate on the traditional curriculum students until they phase out with graduation in 2020. As the new optional program gets established, the executive principal will probably become increasingly involved in the overall administration of the school.

During this second week as East's executive principal, Brooks will not be at the school. She will be out of town picking up ideas about successful STEM high schools in Murfreesboro, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Atlanta. In mid week, she and Linda Sklar, Shelby County Schools Director of Advanced Academics and Optional Schools, will be in Knoxville to visit the L&N STEM Academy. L&N opened as a magnet school in 2011. It graduated its first class in 2014 and in the same year was ranked by the state as being in the top five percent of public schools in academic achievement.

The East High Alumni Page will continue to bring you details of the transition of East High into a T-STEM optional school as well as other school news of interest to alumni.

Executive Principal Named for East High
to Lead School into T-STEM Program

By The East High Alumni Page

February 24, 2017 - Lischa T. Barrett Brooks ('91) is the new "executive principal" of East High School, having been appointed to lead the 68 year old school into a new era as a T-STEM (Transportation oriented Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) optional only (magnet) school. The appointment was made February 20 and was effective immediately.

Ms. Brooks is a 1991 graduate of East High School.

Immediately prior to her appointment to the East High assignment the 44-year old was principal of the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, an optional only middle school (grades 6-8) at what used to be known as Fairview Junior High. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. The Smith STEAM Academy is seen as a likely feeder of students into the East High School T-STEM program.

Ms. Brooks is a graduate of Dartmouth College and began her teaching career with Latin classes at Central High School in Memphis. She then became a technology coordinator at Ridgeway Middle School while also teaching computer technology. She moved into administrative work as assistant principal of Ridgeway High School where she was instrumental in the development of the successful application for Ridgeway to become part of the International Baccalaureate Organization. She has also served as a regional coordinator in the northeast region of Memphis City Schools and  as the GEAR UP Coordinator (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

The East High T-STEM program begins for students in August with all the ninth grade members being admitted to either the T-STEM or the pre-existing Engineering optional programs. About 125 students are expected in that class. The tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades will continue with a traditional curriculum for the 2017-2018 school year. For 2018-2019, both the ninth and tenth grades will be all optional students, the following year will add the eleventh grade. Next year's ninth graders will become the first twelfth graders in the T-STEM program and will be graduated in 2021.

Ms. Brooks is author of the book The Prayer Manifesto for the Globally Conscious: How to Develop a Heart to Pray for Others ( iUniverse, 2013).

Dr. Marilyn Hilliard, East High's interim principal will continue in that role, reporting to executive principal. An interim principal has been named for the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy to take over the duties Ms. Brooks vacates there.

East High will also undergo a restart for all faculty members. For the 2017-2018 school year all faculty positions are open and will require teachers, including those currently at East, to apply for a teaching position there.

You can see a Shelby County Schools produced video of Ms. Brooks talking about her new role at East High on YouTube.

The East High Alumni Page will continue to bring you details of the East High transition to a T-STEM optional school as well as other news of importance to alumni.

If you wish to read the credential news media coverage of this appointment you may do so at:
Chalkbeat Feb. 24, 2017,   The Commercial Appeal  Feb. 28, 2017,  Memphis Daily News, Feb. 28, 2017

Twenty-two apply for East STEM classes during first week

   February 6, 2017 - Shelby County Schools reported that 22 students have applied to the East High T-STEM program during the first week applications were being accepted by SCS. The T-STEM program starts next school year with the ninth grade. The district has estimated 100 T-STEM students and perhaps another 25 in the existing Engineering optional program at East. Depending on which SCS leader one speaks with, it could be all 125 seats are expected to be STEM students. On the other hand, it has been said that if more than 125 qualified students applied, the program would be expanded up to accommodate them.
   A top administrator in the optional school program indicated it was not a surprise that large numbers were not applying initially because they "are not going to apply until they know who the principal is." A principal for the T-STEM program at East High has not been chosen. Interviews with candidates for the job begin this week.
   Applications for optional programs ask the applicant for his/her top three optional program choices. It was not immediately clear to this writer whether the 22 applying for East T-STEM during the first week were listing East as their first choice or further down on their list.

Again: Administration Skips Updating Board on East STEM Progress

February 1, 2017 - Once again, on January 31, the Shelby County Schools administration decided not to discuss the East High STEM project at the Board of Education meeting. For about two months top administration officials have said East STEM would be brought up before the board but then has decided not to do so. The East High Alumni Page has tried to keep alumni informed based on the information provided by those top administrators but obviously it has been misleading. That result is regretted.

East STEM School Cited as Example

February 1, 2017 - Appearing this morning before a committee of the County Commission the Chief Financial Officer of Shelby County Schools, Lin Johnson, said the district continues to strive to improve its schools and mentioned the East High STEM School plan as a demonstration of that commitment

 Watch a School District Video about East High's Forthcoming T-STEM Transformation

Shelby County Schools has produced a video about East High's Transportation-Science, Technology, Engineering, and Match (T-STEM) optional school to which East is converting starting with the ninth grade in August, 2017. This video is primarily about and from the T-STEM open house held at East High January 18, 2017.  Watch via YouTube

You can also read the associated news release produced by the school district here.

Additional Considerations Regarding East High STEM

January 24, 2017 - While no board member opposition is expected to the plan to transform East High School into a fully optional T-STEM (Transportation oriented Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math focused) school over the next four years, there may well be some concerns about where children who live in the current East High attendance zone will be assigned next year.
   For those living in the East attendance zone, only ninth graders next year will be assigned to another school. Tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students will continue at East for the 2017-2018 school year. The next year, ninth and tenth graders not in the East optional programs will be assigned elsewhere, in 2019-2020 all but the senior class will be assigned elsewhere. The plan calls for East to be completely an optional school in 2020-2021.
   Tentative thoughts on the assignment of ninth graders for the 2017-2018 school year are that they will be zoned into either Douglass High or Melrose High.
   There could also be some discussion of renaming East High to something else but with the name "East" incorporated into it. Top administration officials have said they like the name as it is, "East High School," but at least one board member has suggested a name change might help market the new school curriculum. Source: The East High Alumni Page

First Glance at East High STEM Program!

by The East High Alumni Page
    January 19, 2017 - While indicating plans are still flexible, Shelby County Schools (SCS) has revealed the most about the forthcoming T-STEM (Transportation oriented Science, Technical, Engineering, Math) optional school to which East High is to be transitioned beginning with the fall semester this year.
    An open house for parents and others interested in the East High T-STEM optional school was held January 18. Guests were ushered through three technical laboratory classrooms to meet teachers and hear brief explanations of the programs. An additional presentation gave an overview of the initial curriculum "pathways," admission requirements, and other aspects of the program.
    The transition of East High into an entirely optional T-STEM school is set to begin in August with the ninth grade and will advance a grade each year. SCS says they expect to have about 125 freshman enrolled next year, possibly with 100 in the T-STEM program and 25 in the existing engineering optional program. Saying the building has plenty of room, Brett Lawson, SCS Instructional Leadership Director, says that if there is a groundswell and 300 qualified students apply to the T-STEM program's first year program it will expand to accommodate them. Those in grades ten through 12 will continue the traditional course of studies but administrators say their programs will also be enhanced.
    The classes for the initial ninth grade T-STEM group will be held in the newer buildings at East High, originally constructed as a Vo-Tech and the original optional school center. According to administrators, essentially there will be two schools at East, the T-STEM program in the newer buildings and the traditional students in the original East High building, each with its own principal. The newer facility also has its own kitchen but it appears undecided whether T-STEM students will have lunch there or in the main lunchroom in the main building. T-STEM students may also use the auditorium and gym in the main structure. As grades are added to the T-STEM program it will expand into the larger building. Even though the older building was constructed in 1947-1948, Lawson praised the "beautiful" building saying the T-STEM program looked forward to expanding into it.
    The school system is soliciting ideas from parents as to what should be included in the curriculum. The initial classes will offer three T-STEM pathways of study. "Project Lead the Way," a broad spectrum engineering course which all T-STEM students are anticipated to take, Aviation, and Distribution and Logistics.
    The T-STEM program has a mandatory eighth class period. During their ninth grade year, a T-STEM student could take two T-STEM classes as well as the other general education required and optional classes. In addition, SCS offers a virtual STEM academy for any qualified SCS student in the county in which a East High T-STEM student could enroll, giving them a ninth class each day. The virtual STEM laboratory is already located at East High. A number of courses will offer dual enrollment in which a student gets college credit upon successful completion as well as the high school credit. Lawson said it is possible an East T-STEM student could graduate from the school with 22 high school STEM credits. "If only half of them are dual enrollments, you'd walk away with 33 college credits before you graduate, plus an industry certification or two or three or four."
    It was emphasized several times that even though the new program at East is transportation oriented, that is not all for which the curriculum prepares a graduate. Transportation may be the example often used, but the knowledge and skills taught apply broadly to STEM careers. Even beyond that, the critical thinking needed to complete the T-STEM course work is beneficial for students pursuing other less technical work, from being attorneys to teachers.
    SCS says industry and organizations are excited about the East T-STEM program and have made commitments to participate in one way or another. Earlier, SCS cited 25 such partners but at the open house and in other recent documents about 15 are being listed. Cummins Diesel will work with the school to provide diesel engine technology studies, FedEx provides flight simulators for the aviation curriculum and University of Memphis teachers are participating.
    Acceptance into the East High T-STEM program requires an applying student score at or above the 50 percentile on the reading and math subtests of the NWEA Map, a TCAP End of Course Test, or another nationally normed assessment, including the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. The test must have been taken no more than one year prior to the application for admission to the East T-STEM program. On the reading and math subtests, scores may be from a single administration of the test or multiple instances, which according to Lawson can be merged into a "super score." Applicants must have, and students in the East T-STEM program must maintain, a GPA of 3.0 or above and no semester or end of course grade lower than a C. They must have an attendance record with no more than 15 absences or instances of tardiness to school or class and conduct grades must be satisfactory or above. An interview with the student is required for admission. Lawson says the interview is mostly to determine that the student is interested in the program, not only a parent. Parents or guardians, as well as students, will need to sign an agreement that they understand the expectations of the program and are committed to maintaining them.
    Applications to the East High T-STEM optional school will be accepted beginning January 27, 2017, however, an applicant may reserve a virtual place in line by obtaining a bar code beginning January 23. A portion of the application process is outlined here.

$2.59 million renovation proposed for East High

January 18, 2017 - The administration of Shelby County Schools proposes a $2,596,500.00 renovation of East High School as part of  its "Fresh Start" plan preparing the school to transition to a fully optional STEM school beginning with the ninth grade late this summer. The money will be allocated for mechanical, electrical and lighting upgrades as well as exterior and interior renovations. The school district's officials say they will be asking the Shelby Commission for the funds.

   The school district has published a flyer promoting the new optional East High STEM program. You can read it on-line at the SCS web site.
   The East High Alumni Page will continue its extensive coverage of the proposed conversion of East High into a STEM optional school with new developments occurring frequently. See additional coverage in news briefs below and on our Today's East High page.

East High STEM Plan
Next Steps

January 12, 2017 - The East High Alumni Page has spoken with the administration of Shelby County Schools about the status of the East High STEM proposal.
    The SCS administration expects to implement the plan effective with the start of the 2017-2018 school year barring unexpected opposition. It is believed that the members of the Board of Education support the plan. While there may be some opposition by those who currently live in the East High attendance zone, since they or their children might have to attend another school, the administration does not expect any such opposition to derail the proposal.   
    The plan is expected to be discussed at the January 24, 2017, Board of Education Work Session which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Coe building Auditorium, 160 South Hollywood Street, Memphis. No votes are taken and members of the public are not permitted to speak to the board at the Work Session.
    The administration does not plan to bring up the East STEM proposal at the Board of Education "business meeting" which begins at 5:30 p.m.  January 31. The administration believes, as most observers do, that the proposal to transition East High into a STEM optional school does not require a vote of the board. Votes of the board are taken at the business meeting sessions and the public is also allowed a limited opportunity to speak to the board members during the business meeting. Members of the public wishing to speak at the business meeting must sign up before the meeting begins. A sign up sheet is available from about 5 to 5:30 p.m.
    The administration does not propose to change the name of East High, at least initially. There has been some discussion among board members previously about altering the name if the STEM proposal is implemented.
    As reported elsewhere on these pages, the East High STEM proposal calls for the transition to occur year by year, grade by grade, beginning with the ninth grade in 2017. The administration foresees the probability of East having two principals during the transition phase, one for the STEM students and one for the traditional students. In an earlier post here, it was disclosed a job opportunity posting has been issued by the school district for a principal of East High to oversee the school as "a local, regional, and national model focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in Transportation Based Careers (T-STEM)." Also previously reported here, the district has published an estimate that there will be 100 seats available for students in the ninth grade STEM program at East beginning with the fall semester, 2017.
    For more background, follow the links in the above story and those below to additional links to some of the previously published stories.

East High T-STEM Program Takes Applications

"East High T-STEM Program Takes Applications," is the headline of a report on the status of the East High STEM plan as revealed at the Jan. 18 open house at the school. Memphis Daily News, Jan. 19.


January 7,2017 - Chalkbeat Tennessee reports, "It's official. Big changes coming to historic Memphis East High School."  The report by the on-line education news source appears to be based on the school district's including the East High STEM conversion in its list of optional schools that were to be promoted at a January 8 event.
Chalkbeat, Jan 7, 2017
[minor updates incorporated in the above Jan. 9]

East High STEM Decision Delayed Until January

December 6, 2016 - A Shelby County School District senior official has told The East High Alumni Page that the discussion by the Board of Education and the decision to move forward with converting East High to a STEM optional school has been delayed until the Board's January meetings. The administration's proposal to close two elementary schools and build 3 new schools apparently is the cause of the delay. Board meetings may be heard live on radio station WQOX, 88.5 FM and viewed on Memphis Comcast Cable Channel  19.  Coverage from those sources may also be streamed on the Internet from http://voiceofscs.com/

Handful Hear a Few New Details About East STEM proposal

All commenting spoke in support

by The East High Alumni Page

      November 22, 2016 - There was a decidedly different atmosphere at the "info session" about the proposal to make East High an optional only STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) high school at a very poorly attended public meeting at First Baptist Church Broad November 22. There was nary a negative opinion of the plan to convert East into a high achievement STEM school, very much unlike a similar session held at East October 17 where the vast majority of perhaps 50 members of the general public made up of mostly alumni, parents, guardians, and East teachers had aggressive questions and outright opposition to the idea.

     A handful of East alumni, including Mea King, a 1997 East graduate and now an award winning teacher at East, made rather long comments in favor of the STEM proposal.

     About the only hint of opposition came from three or four alumni who expressed concern about the possibility the name of the school might be changed. Dr. Hedi Ramirez, Chief Academic Officer of Shelby County Schools fielded the question with a somewhat ambiguous answer about wanted to preserve the historic significance of the school and its name and then suggesting about three names that included the word "east" in them but were not precisely "East High School."

     Mr. Brett Lawson an SCS Instructional Leadership Director, who coaches principals at eleven high schools including East, gave a slide presentation but as both he and Ramirez warned, there was not much new revealed that had not been made public at the October meeting or at a school board Academic Performance Committee meeting held late last month.

     New elements in the proposal not expressed in meetings for the general public before were the suggestions that students living in within a two mile radius of East would get a "priority" in the admission process and that there would be a mandatory after-school class for the STEM students followed by a voluntary attendance class which they would be encouraged to attend. It was pointed out that the iZone schools in the SCS system, which special intervention underway and are reportedly making significant progress in helping students close an grade level-achievement gap, have an extra hour of class every day.

     Other aspects of the proposed admission requirements were quite similar to those expressed before including successful applicants being in the 50th percentile on approved reading and math assessments, a grade point average of at least 3.0 with no grade lower than a C, and no bad conduct grades.

     Students in what is now the East High attendance zone would be assigned to either Douglass or Melrose High Schools, both iZone schools starting with the rising ninth graders for the 2017-2018 school year. For each of the next 3 years one additional grade would be added to the STEM curriculum while those currently in the traditional curriculum would be allowed to continue at East in that study regime until they graduate, assuming they graduate on time.

     This was the fourth meeting for people not affiliated with the school system could attend. In addition to this meeting and the October 17 meeting, there was the afore mentioned Academic Performance Committee meeting and last night, November 21, there was a meeting for parents and students for those pupils in the East attendance zone who would be ninth graders next year. That meeting, too, did not draw a large crowd. An SCS representative said about eight to ten parents and three students attended.

     Several people mentioned that one reason so few attended tonight's event at the church was that the East High boys basketball team was playing a game in the MLK Tournament at the same time. East has been pre-season ranked as being the number three boys high school basketball team in the nation.

      At least two of the meeting attendees mentioned, without criticizing the choice, that the people at the basketball game should have been at the information meeting about East High's future.

     About a dozen people who were not employees of Shelby County Schools were scattered about the church's chapel. Six of those were University of Memphis students who were billed as STEM ambassadors speaking in favor of a STEM education, particularly as it applied to transportation. Their attendance was apparently arranged by another "public" attendee and presenter, Dr. Stephanie Ivey, an associate professor of civil engineering and Director of the Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute at the university. Her comments gave strong support of STEM education and the opportunities it opens for students. The university is one of more than two dozen entities pledging to support in one way or another an East High STEM curriculum.

     If one subtracts the U of M people and the SCS administrative staff from the total, one could count the members of the general public attending in the middle single digits, most being East alumni.

     At an information meeting at East High held October 17 attracted about 60 people total, perhaps 25 East alumni and 20 teachers from the school. Most of the rest were either East students or SCS employees. As we have reported, the tone of that meeting was quite resistant to the STEM proposal.

     In her comments, Rameriz again cited the risk to East saying, "[I]f we don't do something with East High School someone will do something to East High School." It has been noted previously East has about 522 students in a building with a capacity of about 1,500 and it is currently in the fourth percentile of schools statewide academically. That means more than 95% of the public schools in the state rank higher. She said the idea is to offer East STEM students a high quality Dual Enrollment (college and high school at the same time) and/or college credit courses.

     Among the attendees was school board member Teresa Jones in whose voting district East is located. She said that while she was open to being convinced otherwise from the start she has been in favor of the proposal to make East a STEM optional school.

     The Board of Education is expected to discuss the proposal for an East STEM optional (magnet) school at its November 29 meeting and perhaps discuss and vote on the proposal at a December 6 meeting at which a limited time is allowed for public comments to be made to the board. The school administration has, however, says it will also be presenting proposals to close two other elementary schools at the same meetings. School closures often bring crowds of parents, students and teachers from the affected schools and that can reduce even further the time each member of the public gets to speak. Both board meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Coe building auditorium at SCS, 160 South Hollywood Street (see map).

     In addition, SCS announced a few other relevant dates:
January 8, 2017, a SCS optional school\program fair at the University of Memphis,
January 18, 2017, an public open house at East High School, and,
January 27, 2017, optional school\program application acceptance opens at 6:30 a.m.

     Look for further details on the January 18 East High open house in the coming days.

Decision on "Hyper Underperforming" East High School Needed Soon
Transition would mean many changes

by The East High Alumni Page

[Editor's note: a preliminary decision on East High STEM may come in late November and early December, 2016. 

      October 27, 2016 - Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson says a decision from the school board on whether to proceed with his proposal to transition East High into a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) focused optional school needs to be made within "the next month or so." He says the administration needs that lead time to set up the curriculum and choose a school principal and staff, as well as determine a different school assignment for rising 9th graders who will remain in traditional studies but live in the current East attendance zone.

      Hopson first suggested the transition a year ago which would have taken place this school year, but questions from board members and an unsettled situation over closing of other schools led him to delay the proposal for a year. The idea includes a lot of the STEM curriculum involving the transportation industry, so much so that the school system has called it a T-STEM school proposal, the "T" standing for transportation. However, the top academic department official said that the transportation aspect could be over played in the discussion but that transportation is a major employer in Memphis with many career opportunities.

      At an Academic Performance Committee meeting of the Board of Education attended by board members Miska Clay-Bibbs, Teresa Jones, Mike Kernell, and Chris Caldwell October 25, Hopson and SCS Chief Academic Officer Hedi Ramirez outlined the proposal for the transition of East High to a STEM school with about the same information presented to parents, teachers, and the public at a meeting at East High October 17. It calls for a year-by-year transition with the ninth grade to be all STEM students in 2017-2018, progressing by one grade each year until 2020-2021 when the entire 9-12 grade structure would be fully STEM.

      Hopson said it would be "too much to do it well" to change all grades four grades to the STEM curriculum in one year. The year -by-year transition would also allow all those students currently enrolled at East to continue in traditional classes until they graduated from East, presuming they were promoted to the next grade each year.

      As The East High Alumni Page reported earlier, East is now in the lowest four percent of all schools in the state in academic performance. Attendance is down to about 522 pupils while another 245 who live in the East attendance zone go to other SCS or SCS Charter schools. The administration says the current capacity of East is 1,364. The engineering optional program which once thrived at East has less than 40 students enrolled in it. Ramirez described East at "hyper underperforming."

      Weighing in on the side to make East a STEM school in addition to the poor academics and low enrollment is the report that 21 entities have pledge to support the East STEM school in one way or another, including the University of Memphis and FedEx. The potential partners are said to be "really excited" about the possibilities if East is transitioned into the optional school and, the school administration says, many have agreed to support those in the traditional curriculum during the year-by-year transition. The physical condition and location of the East High School building are attributes favorable to maintaining it as a viable school.

      As has been said repeatedly, and reported previously here, the poor academic performance of East combined with the low attendance makes East a target for closing or for take over by the state's Achievement School District (ASD). The ASD does not plan to acquire any schools next year because of the changing of the state assessment tools. The ASD is likely to be back to taking over poor performing schools for the 2018-2019 school year. Memphis has already been the locale where the ASD has taken over the vast majority of schools and the number of SCS schools in the lowest five percent of academic performance continues to make it a target rich environment.

     Arguments against making East a fully STEM school include those often expressed by attendees at the October 17 meeting at East. Of the sixty or so alumni, teachers, parents, and members of the public that attended that meeting, there was strong sentiment for keeping East a neighborhood school for all children in the attendance zone. Parents and other guardians just want their children to be able to walk to school. A related concern was that neighborhood children who might want to attend an East STEM school would not qualify to attend. Alumni, particularly from the 1990s and early 2000s it seems, believed the school was a good school when they attended and thought it could be restored just by raising the standards while keeping it a traditional school. Many at the meeting said enrollment was down because Career and Technology Courses (CTE), previously known as vo-tech, had been cut. They said attendance would rebound if more CTE courses were brought back to East.

      A successful STEM school in the SCS system is Maxine Smith STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Academy, a middle school which is in the building previously known as Fairview Junior High. Those middle schoolers could continue their STEAM/STEM studies at an optional high school devoted to that curriculum. It was said, however, however, that when speaking with parents of Maxine Smith STEAM Academy students they expressed concerns about safety issues at East High. It was also noted that Maxine Smith has less than 150 enrolled it its six through eighth grades and not all of them would choose to attend East even if it were a STEM school. Ramirez said that a freshman STEM class at East would expect to have between 100-120 children.

      It was revealed at the October 25th meeting that there could be two principals at East if the STEM proposal is implemented, one for the pupils in the traditional curriculum and another for those in STEM.

      Hopson also indicated an interest in having higher admission standards for an East STEM school than were included in the failed federal grant application and mentioned at the October 17 meeting. He said there was a thought that to push for a higher performance STEM school those seeking admission might be required to have a grade point average higher than 3.0 and to take an admissions test. Some other SCS optional programs have admissions testing, including the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy. With a GPA requirement of "3.2 or 3.5 then, I think, the opportunity for long term rigor and high performance is probably even greater," Hopson added. It was made known that the earlier mentioned admission criteria with no admissions test and a GPA of 3.0 was related to the competitive federal grant application and since SCS did not get that grant it was free to improve the requirements. Ramirez did say that hiking the GPA requirement or requiring admission testing would probably make it "not worth the time to reapply" for another federal magnet school grant as those grants favor a more open admission policy.

      The superintendent said the easiest way to transition East would be to close it as a traditional school and then reopen it as a fully STEM school but because of tradition and allowing current students to finish at their school, the grade by grade transition would be preferable. He said there was plenty of space to, in essence, be running two schools within the building.

      It might be noted that for the years prior to the 1972-1973 school year, East did run two, perhaps three, schools in the same building: East Elementary, East Junior High, and East High. The elementary had a separate principal while the junior high and high school were served by the same principal.

      The recent reputation of East was mentioned in connection with drawing students to an East STEM school. It was said that just changing the curriculum and calling it STEM would not necessarily attract students, that the reworked school would need to be well marketed to parents in Shelby County. Bibbs, the committee chairperson, said she thought the name would also need to be changed both because of the lingering reputation of recent years and to differentiate the traditional classes from the STEM classes during the transition period, but she added the new name should incorporate the word "East" in it.

      East athletics were mentioned as a positive attraction for students and both the administration proposal and at least three board members at the Academic Performance Committee meeting expressed a desire to continue the "championship" tradition of athletic programs at East. It was suggested that some athletes who excel academically are going to schools outside the district or private schools because there were too few choices of high schools in SCS with good athletic programs and high academic achievement. Kernell said careers now call for teamwork and that is a valuable lesson sports can teach.

      Jones asked about the possibility of ASD taking over East after the transition began but before improved academic results starting showing in the annual statistics. She suggested the administration talk with the ASD to get some assurance that would not happen and that there would be some number of years for the turnaround to take effect. Hopson indicated he "couldn't imagine" the ASD not giving some leeway but that he would talk with the ASD about it.

      Jones told the superintendent she and the board needed a time line giving the "ideal" dates for each step to happen. Hopson appeared to agree and said the most immediate need was planning the assignment of next year's ninth graders to another school. Ramirez added that the brochures for optional school programs for next year go to the printer in December.

      Jones, the immediate past chairperson of the school board, said she might like to see both a traditional school and the STEM optional school in the building if funding and other factors would allow. Furthermore, she said she would prefer the vision be broader than a transportation STEM to increase its appeal. Hopson said STEM was the headline feature, suggesting the studies would entail a considerably wider focus than just STEM for transportation.

      Kernell called an East High STEM school a "beautiful thing we could point to for ourselves and for the rest of the world."

      In her Academic Performance Committee report at the school board "business meeting" later October 25, Bibbs mentioned that the group had discussed the East High STEM proposal but did not go into any detail. Two East alumni and two East seniors spoke to the board during the public comment period. Their main point seemed to be a desire to be fully informed and the opinions of alumni and students be included in the decision making process.

      The Shelby County Board of Education's next scheduled meeting is a "work session" (no votes, no public comment, but open for public observation) November 29. The next scheduled business meeting (with votes and public comments) is December 6. Various board committees may meet before those dates and a special called meeting could also occur if needed. Board policy requires at least 24 hours notice of any board meeting be posted and placed on the SCS web site. Committee meetings require a five day notice unless an emergency situation exists. The Board of Education's section of the SCS web site can be found at http://www.scsk12.org/board/.

Read an additional story on the October 25, 2016, Academic Performance Committee meeting in Chalkbeat.

Initial Public Meeting on Future of East High School
As a STEM Optional School
Parents and Public Question the Proposal

by The East High Alumni Page

     October 17, 2016 - The top academic officers of the Shelby County School system along with the Board of Education member in whose district East High sits tonight met with about 60 people comprising a few current East High students, a contingent of perhaps 25 alumni of the school, about a dozen East teachers, the remainder were parents and guardians of current students, and a few concerned members of the larger Memphis community. It appeared the largest group were alumni.
     East High's future is in question because it is in the bottom five percent in academic performance of schools in the state. With the decline in enrollment (currently at 522), and the low academic rating, East is open to be taken over by the state's Achievement School District or, as SCS administrators have said, on a trend that could lead to a closing of the school.
     After introductory remarks from East Principal Marilyn Hilliard, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson, and Board Member Teresa Jones, SCS Chief Academic Officer Hedi Ramirez conducted a presentation outlining some ideas the district administration has about transforming East High.
     As was reported here a year ago, the administration's initial proposal is to make East High a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) optional school. In particular a T-STEM school, with the first T standing for a focus on how STEM applies to transportation. Ramirez noted that Memphis is a transportation hub with thousands employed in the industry. While emphasizing that the purpose was to inform and get ideas from the public, the initial proposal called for all ninth grade students in the 2017-2018 school year to be STEM students, admitted to the program upon application and meeting the requirements of no more than 15 combined tardies and absences from school during a year, a grade point average of 3.0, and no N (needs improvement) or U (unsatisfactory) in conduct, and participating in an application interview. Current East pupils in grades 10-12 would continue their traditional curriculum during that first year of the STEM program. The second year grade ten would be added as exclusively STEM, the third year grade eleven, and finally in school year 2020-2021 all four high school grades would be STEM.
     The presentation was interrupted with a few questions and after trying to answer one or two administrators asked the group to let the presentation continue and save questions for discussion in small groups that would assemble in a few minutes. It was clear from the initial questions, however, that the proposal was meeting some resistance.
     In the small group this writer attended, there seemed to be little support for the T-STEM program. Instead, those speaking mostly advocated for maintaining the neighborhood school, more diverse courses, more tutors, and more career technology education (CTE) classes (what used to be called vo-tech).
     In answering the question if East were to transition to STEM, would the small group prefer year-by-year transition or to make the change all at once and rezone all traditional curriculum students to another school the first year, the small group overwhelmingly indicated a year-by-year transition. That may not mean, however, that they like the idea of a STEM optional school at all.
     After the breakout sessions, there were reports on some of the ideas that came from each group. Some of the summary comments:
Group 1:

  • bring back the great things East High has had going for it in the past (in this case it appeared the past was defined at 5-10-20 years ago)
  • if the choice is between converting to STEM all at one time or transition grade year by grade year, a transition was overwhelmingly desired
  • for traditional curriculum students remaining at the school, the group wanted great teachers, a dedicated counselor, dual enrollment classes, and stepped up tutoring
  • "some reluctance" for real high admission standards
  • suggestion to "recombine some middle school populations" to increase the feeder pattern into East High so as to increase enrollment
  • get community support to rebrand the school to restore its reputation
  • a current teacher expressed the opinion that things had turned around in the past couple of years and that things would continue to get better;
Group 2:
  • want East to be back as the esteemed East it was once before
  • bring back CTE (vo-tech)
  • opportunities for students to engage in athletics – that in the past students came to East because of the successful athletic opportunities
  • continue Peer Power (paid peer tutoring)
  • want students grades 10-12 the option to stay at East through the 12th grade
  • questions about how students at middle school or at Lester would be supported to attend the T-STEM program at East
  • Melrose and East students should not be brought together
  • there should be an optional program, a CTE (vo-tech) STEM program, and a traditional program at East
  • that students should not have to leave East to get a quality education
  • support for elementary and middle schools that will feed into the program
  • mostly the big idea is support for a quality program at East without students having to leave, enhance what's already here;
Group 3:
  • could there be someone in the community to act as a liaison between the board of education and the community to provide input on the next phase of planning
  • the question does it have to be an exclusive optional school or could it be both optional and traditional school combined;
Group 4:
  • on curriculum and instructional practices our group had a focus on vocational offerings: mechanics, early childhood, liberal arts, performing arts, with opportunity for real world experience
  • peer to peer learning is important (probably referring to the Peer2Peer tutoring program)
  • in regards to STEM, make sure the program is sustainable over time and that the morale within the program is upheld
  • in the past vocational students and optional students didn't mix, if it goes through a combined STEM and traditional curriculum transition, students ought to have the opportunity to do both, academic and vocational and have some input on what their schedule is going to look like
  • if the transitional approach to STEM is used, provide enrichment programs, guest speakers and alums who are very wealthy would be perfect for that.

     Following the small group summaries, there were a few additional questions from the audience.
     One questioner wanted to know why SCS was pursuing the T-STEM idea since it was rejected for the federal grant. Ramirez said that while the federal government chose not to provide the grant it was not because of the T-STEM focus. In fact, she said SCS got very high marks on the plan design. But she pointed out that the grant application was very competitive and despite losing out on the funds it also was a learning process which could lead to other outside grant applications. She further indicated the existence of the application allowed SCS to go to potential partners in the business community to get their support.
     It might be mentioned here SCS says numerous businesses are excited about the T-STEM proposal and have indications they would like to partner with the school system in implementing it.
     Another question was about permitting the students of East High a voice in the process. Ramirez said that was a good idea.
     SCS administrators and board members repeatedly said that no final decision has been made about the direction East High will go and that additional opportunities for the public to provide opinions will be offered.

[See also the October 18, 2016, Chalkbeat
(webnews) story about this event.

Top Administrators of School District to Listen to Public & Parents
on East High's Future October 17

October 13, 2016 - It is believed the top academic administrators of the Shelby County School district will be at the Monday, October 17, 5:30 p.m. meeting at East High to hear what the public and parents have to say about the proposal to convert East High into a STEM magnet school. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. East High's academic performance has been well below the "college and career ready" benchmarks for many years and in the past couple enrollment has dwindled to about 550 pupils. The school was originally designed for about 1500 students and a second building was added in the 1970s as a Vo-Tech center adding another 500 to the overall capacity. With the low enrollment and poor academic performance, East High has been described by SCS as on a trend that would lead to it being a target to be closed.
 But East High is also described as an "iconic" school, it has a very rich history of a top academic school not only in the city but in the entire region during its first 20-25 years after opening in 1948. That, along with its central location, $12-million renovation a decade ago, and already housing the school district's high school STEM lab for students in the virtual STEM program, administrators are working to not only save the school but restore its luster. The proposal is to make it a STEM optional (magnet) school serving students from all over the district who have the interest, grades, and conduct to be accepted. Superintendent Dorsey Hopson last year said that the planned date for the revised curriculum would be the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
 The top echelon of academic administrators for the school district are likely to be at Monday's meeting, probably including Hopson, Chief Academic Officer Hedi Ramirez, Director of Optional Schools Linda Sklar, Innovation Zone Regional Superintendent Sharon Griffin, Curriculum & Instruction STEM Manager Dedric McGhee, and Instructional Leadership Director Brett Lawson. Board of Education member Teresa Jones, in whose voting district East is located, is also expected to attend.

Meeting for the Public on Future of East High School Oct. 17

October 12, 2016 - It is reported that a meeting will be held at East High School on October 17, 2016, 5:30pm to discuss the future of the school. The meeting is to get opinions of the public. School Board member Teresa Jones, in whose voting district East sits, is expected to attend.
(See the reports below for more information on East's future.)

Plans for East's Future Murkie?

Newspaper: "The plan to turn one of Memphis' most iconic high schools into an optional STEM school has gotten murkier after not making the cut for a federal grant.
"Shelby County Schools did not receive a U.S. Department of Education grant sought to redesign East High School as a magnet school focused on science, technology, engineering and math, a district spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday." (The Commercial Appeal, Oct. 12/13, 2016)
Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has told The East High Alumni Page within the past few weeks that the administration planed to pursue the STEM plans for East regardless of the status of the grant.

East High still likely to continue with the ambitious plan

"Although Shelby County Schools didn't get a federal grant for a new optional school program at East High, the school system is still likely to continue with the ambitious plan." (Memphis Daily News, Oct. 13/14, 2016.
The East High Alumni Page previously reported that SCS administration intended to pursue the STEM magnet school at East regardless of the success or lack of success of the grant application.

"Transforming East High School into one of the most high performing high schools"

September 28, 2016 - Fifty and sixty years ago East High School was one of the premier academic public schools in the mid-south region. In more recent decades, East's academic performance has fallen. In the past couple of years, so has attendance. East now has about 550 pupils attending its 9-12 grades. It has been pointed out that the trend in attendance and academic performance, if continued, would put East on the list for possible closure. Instead, the Shelby County School district proposes to address the academics with hopes it will build attendance. At the September 27, 2016, Board of Education meeting, superintendent Dorsey Hopson said he is ready to reveal those plans: "Also want to note for the board two things. We are going to be asking the board to put together or convene, probably in the Academic Performance Committee, a couple of meetings. One, hopefully, late next week so we can update the board on East High School... As you all know we applied for a [federal] magnet [school] grant. We'll know by the thirtieth whether we received the grant but even if we don't receive the grant we still want to begin the process of transforming East High School into one of the most high performing high schools in this state. So we're going to update you on where we are there, the process that we've come up with, and what needs to happen between now and next year to make that happen."
Update: As of Oct. 5, the office of the board members reports no Academic Performance Committee meeting has been scheduled.
(See also related stories below and in the right column.)

Letter to the Editor- East High brimming with STEM possibilities

Letter to the Editor- East High brimming with STEM possibilities: "I welcome Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and the Shelby County Schools' plan to turn East High School into a magnet school focused on science, technology, engineering and math (May 25 article). East's campus and location make it a perfect candidate for a program like this..."
The Commercial Appeal, Jun 5, 2016

Resolution supporting an application for a federal grant to make
East High School a T-STEM

The Shelby County Board of Education May 31 approved without debate a resolution supporting an application for a federal grant to make East High School a T-STEM (Transportation, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)  magnet school " See a BOE document explaining the proposal.

Board Endorses Grant Request to Make East a T-STEM optional school

The Shelby County Board of Education voted May 31, 2016, without debate to endorse a grant request to the United States Department of Education "to enhance the programs offered, improve college and career readiness, increase the racial and socio-economic diversity and to eliminate or reduce minority group isolation of students throughout the system by creating a school-wide T-STEM Optional program at East High School." T-STEM stands for Transportation, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  See the proposal.
While the curriculum for the proposed T-STEM school has not been identified, it would focus on transportation related technologies, although classes that have broader application and/or do not focus on transportation would also be offered.
The DOE grants are said to be highly competitive but at least two rounds of grants under the particular program being offered are expected to occur this summer.
Tentative plans remain to open East High in the late summer of 2017 as a STEM, or T-STEM optional (magnet) school.
As reported previously by The East High Alumni Page, enrollment at East High, both in the traditional classes and the engineering optional classes has decreased dramatically in the past few years. In April, 2016, the pupil count was reported at 554 in the building which was originally designed for at least 1,500 students and since then there has been a second building added to the campus. Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson in May, 2016, said that while East was not at the enrollment level yet to be considered for closing, if the decreased attendance trend continues it could be a candidate for closure in a few years. It is the first time in East's 68 year history the concept of closing East High has been voiced.
Source: The East High Alumni Page

School district continues idea of making East a STEM school to prevent possible closing in a few years.

As reported here in January, the Shelby County School system is considering making East High a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math  magnet school. The administration  of the district anticipates seeking a federal grant to assist in the transition.  "If we don't do something, I expect in three to five years you start getting to the discussion of closure-level low," Superintendent Dorsey Hopson  said May 24, 2016. "It's low but it's not so low we're talking about that."
In April, the school reported having 554 students. The building's capacity is probably about 1,500 and originally was designed for grades 1-12 and even housed a kindergarten in the 1950s.  The school now houses only grades 9-12 and mixes a traditional curriculum with an optional (magnet) college preparatory curriculum in Engineering.
Sources: The Commercial Appeal, The East High Alumni Page

If we don't do something, I expect in three to five years
you start getting to the discussion of closure-level low

May 25, 2016 - "If we don't do something, I expect in three to five years you start getting to the discussion of closure-level low," said Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson after a school board work session May 24, 2016, as he addressed East High's enrollment trend. What the superintendent hopes to do is get a federal grant to turn East High into a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math optional (magnet) school.  As reported on these pages months ago, the target for the change would be the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. This is the first time, however, the prospect of East's being closed has been publicly voiced by the administration. East High could hold 1,500 students, but in April had a pupil count of 554. The school was originally designed for grades 1-12 and even held a kindergarten in addition to those grades in the 1950s. Three decades ago the elementary grades were removed from East and in 2008 it became a grade 9-12 high school. East is calculated to be 59% under utilized and the district is actively reviewing low attendance schools for closure. Although originally Hopson was thinking the transition to a STEM school might occur as early as the 2016-2017 school year, concerns about other schools delayed that for at least a year. He says the discussions among staff about the plan are just resuming and engagement with the East community will follow.
For three decades East had been both a traditional high school and also an optional (magnet) school for engineering and health sciences. The health component was moved in recent years but the college preparatory engineering program continues at East. Despite those special programs, enrollment in them at East has been quite low for a number of years and the traditional curriculum enrollment has begun to decrease.
Sources: The East High Alumni Page, The Commercial Appeal

School district continues idea of making East a STEM school to prevent possible closing in a few years.

As reported here in January, the Shelby County School system is considering making East High a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math  magnet school. The administration  of the district anticipates seeking a federal grant to assist in the transition.  "If we don't do something, I expect in three to five years you start getting to the discussion of closure-level low," Superintendent Dorsey Hopson  said May 24, 2016. "It's low but it's not so low we're talking about that."
In April, the school reported having 554 students. The building's capacity is probably about 1,500 and originally was designed for grades 1-12 and even housed a kindergarten in the 1950s.  The school now houses only grades 9-12 and mixes a traditional curriculum with an optional (magnet) college preparatory curriculum in Engineering.
Sources: The Commercial Appeal, The East High Alumni Page

Superintendent wants to do "something special" at East High School

Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson said on WKNO-TV's "Behind the Headlines" program aired Feb. 26, 2016, that he still wants to do "something special" at East High School. He was answering a question about concerns some Board of Education members have expressed about the affect on other schools, including East, if SCS participates in placing a school in the renovated Crosstown Concourse (the old Sears Crosstown building on Watkins Street in midtown).
As reported here, Hopson has suggested East may become a STEM/STEAM  (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) magnet school but he has said any such transition won't happen until the 2017-2018 school year.
For many years East has been an optional (magnet) school for engineering and health sciences but in recent years participation in those programs at East has been very low. In fact, enrollment at East is probably at an all time low this academic year with  a reported 551 pupils in attendance. Source: WKNO-TV, The East High Alumni Page

East High was briefly mentioned in the news because some Shelby County Board of Education members on Jan. 19, 2016, questioned what affect a Christian Brothers University lead high school in the Crosstown Concourse (the old Crosstown Sears building on Watkins Street) would have. CBU is already a partner with Shelby County Schools at the Maxine Smith STEM Academy (the old Fairview Junior High). The Shelby County Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has floated a proposal to make East, which is very underutilized with about 551 students this year in grades 9-12, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineer, Arts, and Math) magnet school. Hopson told the board members he thought there would be enough demand for the STEAM curriculum to populate both schools. Originally Hopson was talking about the transition of East into a STEAM school for the 2016-2017 school year. The East High Alumni Page has learned he now thinks that will be for the 2017-2018 school year. "We want to do it right," he said. Sources: The Memphis Daily News, Jan.  20/21, The East High Alumni Page

Superintendent considering a nationwide search for a permanent principal
and the possibility of making East fully a STEM school

August 8, 2015 - (For more on this change of leadership and possible change in direction for East High, see the additional story below.)

Dr. Marilyn Hilliard (Principal) has been named interim principal for East High School for the 2015-2016 school year.

As The East High Alumni Page earlier reported, in addition to the new principal, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson is considering a nationwide search for a permanent principal and the possibility of making East fully a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math focused) school...

East to Get New Principal for 2015-2016 School Year
East alumnus Eric Harris leaving after five years at helm
New direction for school considered

by The East High Alumni Page

July 30, 2015 - Eric Harris' ('91 and principal 2010-2015) five year tenure as principal of East High School has come to an end.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has appointed an interim principal whose name has not been publicly announced to guide the institution through the 2015-2016 school year.

Hopson said he is considering a national search for a principal and perhaps making East fully a STEM school, which means one that is highly focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Acknowledging East's academic "rich history," Hopson indicated something needed to be done to lift the school's performance...

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