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Memphis Charter School Knew Of Interim Principal’s Felony Conviction When Hiring Him

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A charter school in Memphis hired an interim principal knowing he had a felony conviction, reports WMC Action News 5 in Memphis.

Koai Matthews of Lester Prep was convicted and sentenced to probation for conspiracy and counterfeiting in 2006, according to court documents from Missouri obtained by WMC.

The school knew of the conviction, but didn’t report it to Tennessee’s Achievement School District, which they are not obligated to do under state law, according to WMC.

The ASD, which learned of the felony conviction through an anonymous tip, is now reviewing its hiring policies for charter school operators.

“We’re not disagreeing with the hiring of certain individuals, we just want to be informed on who those individuals are,” said Robert “Bobby” White, chief of external affairs for the ASD.

Matthews is keeping his job and told WMC that he uses his past to teach students to make better choices than he did.

The ASD was created by the state legislature in 2010 to turn around struggling schools as part of former President Obama’s Race to the Top program.

After news broke of the interim principal with a felony conviction, state Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, wrote to state education commissioner Candice McQueen asking her to end the state’s use of the ASD.

“This is not an acceptable norm in any public school setting nor would it have been attempted in any other public school setting,” Parkinson wrote in his April 25 letter.

He also cited other problems with the ASD, including failing to achieve and abandoning its initial mission of taking the lowest performing schools from the bottom five percent to the top 25 percent of schools in the state, and getting criticized by the state comptroller’s office for misusing federal funds.

The Memphis Daily News reports that McQueen said in a statement that the state isn’t prepared to eliminate the ASD.

“The ASD is one way that our state has been able to serve our students who are in our persistently lowest achieving schools, and it remains a key component of the department’s comprehensive school improvement work,” McQueen said.

 

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