Disrupt, Redesign, Restructure

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By CARRA POWELL

With National School Choice Week around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to highlight a Memphis mom, minister, educator, ed reformer, and trailblazer on her work to bring additional school choice options to families in the city.

Meet LaShundra D. Richmond, EdS. Ms. Richmond is working toward opening the first all-girls charter school in Memphis, Tennessee. Intrigued by her passion, I decided to meet her for coffee to learn more about her background and the driving force behind her desire to make such an enormous investment in the community.

LaShundra is a Memphian – born and raised. Her roots run deep in the faith-based community. Although her father was a minister and she felt the call to ministry at an early age, she waited until later in life to actively pursue it. Her sermons are direct, with an equal mix of tough and tender love, tears, laughter, and good old-fashioned teaching.  She attended a Memphis City School and did well. It was when she began college that she struggled. She realized then that the K-12 education she received hadn’t prepared her to compete with peers from around the state, let alone the country. It was this realization that put her on the path to becoming a classroom educator.

LaShundra is a mother to a beautiful and academically gifted child, Maddie. Not wanting her daughter to encounter the struggles she faced once she reached college, she decided to look beyond her traditional public-school options and quickly settled on a charter school. As an educator and parent of a young girl, Ms. Richmond realized that historically girls have been left out of the education equation nationally and locally. Who in Memphis is actively working to prepare our next generation of female leaders? What better place to prepare those leaders than at school? Not one to ever be interested in doing what everyone else is doing, LaShundra decided to step outside the box and create something no one else in Memphis has done yet: an all-girls charter school.

While Tennessee parents have access to the state’s Individualized Education Account Program, which provides students with disabilities funding to attend a participating private school where the student can receive individualized attention, and has a thriving charter school community, LaShundra hopes to offer parents another option in the school choice landscape. She envisions a space where she can help re-ignite the love of learning and believes that in order for real change to happen in the education arena, the entire system has to be disrupted, redesigned, and restructured. She is prepared and excited to do just that.

This Blog was first posted on The American Federation for Children site.