School Spotlight: Delano Optional School is a prize!

King-Family---DelanoIn Nashville tonight, State Collaborative on Reforming Education will be honoring nine Tennessee schools that are leading the way in student learning. Among the nominees are two local standouts — The Soulsville Charter School and Delano Optional School. Memphis School Guide offers our heartfelt congratulations and appreciation to people at both schools for their hard work on behalf of Memphis kids! UPDATE: Both Soulsville and Delano won in their respective categories — woo hoo!!

Teddy and Rashida King are proud Frayser residents. Rashida is a teacher at Bellevue Middle School in Midtown, while Teddy considers himself the triple Frayser threat — he lives, worships, and works in Frayser, as the community engagement manager for the Achievement Schools, the ASD’s direct-run schools in Frayser. So, when it came time to educate their kids, it was no surprise that they wanted to keep them close to home. Starting with their oldest child, Ayanna, the Kings chose Delano Optional Schoool, an all-Optional (in grades 1-5) elementary school, with a focus on computer technology, located in the heart of Frayser.

What is the greatest thing going on at this school? Delano has a culture of high expectations for students, parents, and staff. The staff communicates with parents frequently about what those expectations are and how they’re being met, and if they’re not being met, things we can do as families to help our children achieve those goals.

Who should win an award at this school and why? Principal Patrice Shipp, who has been there for thirteen years, is a dynamic leader with the ability to galvanize everyone around a common vision for Delano. She sets the tone for the culture of the school. She works hard and holds her teachers to high standards. Good principals are very important and she does a lot of innovative things to make Delano great.

What would make this school even better? We’d love to see a foreign language taught. We’d also like to see them add grades past 5th grade. Many of the parents who send their kids to Delano are Frayser residents who would love to be able to keep their kids in Frayser, but we don’t have a middle or high school that’s an Optional school, with the extra challenge that high-performing kids need. We believe that when you take the best and brightest out of a community, it changes the dynamics of it. If we had a school with the same type of academic challenges as Delano, we’d love to keep our kids in Frayser. (The Kings’ middle schoolers currently attend Bellevue Middle, where their mom teaches.)

What surprised you most about this school? The amount of extracurricular activities available — they offer strings, piano, choir, teacher-led clubs like Beta club, library club, computer club, chess club, art club, fitness club, basketball club, and more. The clubs give students an opportunity to explore their interests and be well-rounded.

How does this school feel? It feels like a family. They call you and your kids by your name. There’s no car line — they bring the kids out at the end of the day and that gives you the opportunity to have a conversation with your child’s teacher right then. You’re never caught off guard by grades or behavior issues because you’ve been talking about them all along.

What are your hopes and dreams for your kids? We want our kids to grow up and do something they love doing — something they’d do whether they were getting paid for it or not. We hope they live a life of service to whatever community they’re in — whether it’s Frayser or anywhere else. We want them to change the world for the better! Everybody’s put here for a reason and whatever you do or don’t do affects everyone else.

For more details on the school, visit Delano Optional School’s profile on Memphis School Guide. While you’re there, take a moment to review your child’s school or save some Favorites, so we can keep you updated with news, events and more about the schools you’re interested in!