We moved to Midtown Memphis almost four years ago from the SF Bay Area. We had a six-month old at the time. We learned right away that most young families don't stay in Midtown long because of the school system. We felt called here to start a church, and believed that we needed to live here long-term in order to be effective.
We also learned that our neighborhood has a public elementary school, but the families in the neighborhood don't send their kids there. So we began our research. I should point out that my wife is an educator and taught in a Memphis City school our first two years here. This helped immensely. In April, 2007 we hosted a forum at our neighborhood school to determine if this was a quality issue or something else (racial, economic, safety, etc...). There was a large turnout, and the consensus at the end was that it's a great school. So something else is keeping families from sending their kids there. After the discussion, my wife was asked to be the Community Representative on the school's Leadership Team. Other parents (of not-yet-school-age children) have already begun to take leadership roles in school events as well. The principal is working closely with neighborhood families to see the school bridge the racial, economic, and academic gap.
Throughout the last few years, we have encountered dozens of people with the same heart cry as ours - for this to become a neighborhood school once again. Some of these we knew to be followers of Christ, but many would not identify themselves as such. Yet a community has begun to form, full of families with a common vision and mission.
Next fall our oldest will be attending Kindergarten at our local elementary school, along with several other children from this group, with dozens more planning on attending in the coming years. Over the last few years we have held this very loosely. We have prayed a lot. We do not want to sacrifice our child, and what we're doing is actually far from that. This is an excellent school, and he's going to have an excellent education, even beyond the academics. He will learn diversity, both racially and economically, and our prayer is that he learns to love others as God loves him.
At the same time, though, what we are doing is extremely intentional and strategic, and I know that it is a big part of why we're here. We never would have set out to integrate our local elementary school or attempt to change the school district, but when we pray, "God, do only what you can do" be ready to walk through the doors He opens!
We could have been called to a different neighborhood in the city, and though our process would have been similar, I recognize that the result may have been different. There are multiple bottom lines, but they all have to be prayed through and considered.