SCS makes split with Porter-Leath pre-K official, says students won’t see disruption

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The seven-year relationship between Shelby County Schools and the preschool education group Porter-Leath is officially over, with the Shelby County Commission agreeing Wednesday that the two groups should go their separate ways.

Services would not be disrupted, said Dr. Divalyn Gordon, Executive Director of Early Childhood for SCS.

The commission hearing between Shelby County Schools and Porter-Leath wasn’t to argue or point fingers, but rather to provide an explanation for why the split is occurring, and how the two groups will continue to serve the community.

| SCS ending partnership with Porter-Leath for pre-K services →

“The parents are the ones who are really sort of caught in the middle of all of this,” County Commissioner Mark Billingsley said.

Porter-Leath and SCS worked together for seven successful years. But down to the final hour, the two sides still can’t agree on why this is split is occurring.

“The amount of money that was being offered to us left Porter-Leath with a $2.2 million deficit. We can’t operate on that,” said Mike Warr, chairman of Porter-Leath.

But the county commission is leaving the decision up to the school district.

“We’re in charge of making sure that the money we receive from the federal government, that we do right by it,” Gordon said. “We have to make sure that we stay in compliance with obligations that are outlined under the Head Start grant.”

Both Porter-Leath and SCS will offer pre-K services to thousands of students across the area.

“We have five high-quality brand new centers. Our teachers are all highly trained, we have a very motivated staff. Early childhood is our passion,” Warr said of Porter-Leath’s facilities and staff.

Shelby County Schools will be hiring staff to expand it’s pre-K program. They plan to host job fairs starting later this month. Dates for the job fairs are still being finalized.

“We want to make sure that we’re focused on making sure that there’s no disruption and parents receive the same quality program,” Gordon said of the SCS program. “We still will have the best teachers. We still will offer whatever social support our families need.”

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