Former Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie Herenton formally announced plans on Wednesday to open a charter school that will serve Shelby County's juvenile offenders.
Dr. Herenton is partnering with Memphis City Schools to provide not only a challenging curriculum but anger management and other classes.
The preliminary plan is to start with a sixth to twelfth grade program run out of an existing city school, then expand so that there are eventually satellite programs across the district.
Dr. Herenton says he's already met with some of Shelby County's juvenile offenders and relayed the message that there's hope for their futures.
"I wanted them to not just look at me as mayor or a former superintendent of schools but to look at me as one who has lived in the same circumstances of life in the same circumstances of life they are living in," he said. "I made different decisions."
The charter school will be named after the country's first African-American Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall.
"My hands will be all over this program in terms of day-to-day monitoring and supervision," the former longtime Memphis mayor said.
Dr. Herenton is teaming up with MSC to serve more than 200 students in the custody of the juvenile detention system by Fall 2013.
"They're going to have to work, be held accountable every second - every minute," said MCS Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash.
The Thurgood Marshall Academy could be located at a campus like Northside High and eventually expand.
The charter school already has the blessing of both the city and county mayors, as well as Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Cutis Person.
"There's an old saying that you never stand taller than when you bend down to lift up a child," Judge Person said.
In addition to a rigorous curriculum, Dr. Herenton intends to offer students anger management and family therapy to help them transition back into the community and prevent them from slipping back into the court system.
"We cannot abandon the human needs of this population."
The Thurgood Marshall Academy charter school still needs the MCS school board's approval. It is unclear whether Dr. Herenton's charter idea will be on this month's agenda.
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