Speaking to the school board at its regularly scheduled meeting, Cash summarized his administration's "cradle to grave" philosophy for improving education. He said the system has made progress in safety, academics, graduation rate, private financial support, and other areas, but has a long way to go. Still, he said Memphis outperforms Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Baltimore with its 70 percent graduation rate.
Cash used the city's "City of Choice" presentation and fit his plans into it. Several times, he referenced the prospect of a merger and said "putting the systems together will not help." He said MCS has "the most comprehensive reform plan in the country."
The auditorium was only about half full, in contrast to recent meetings with overflow crowds to watch board members take key votes on surrendering the school system's charter. Cash has been mostly silent since making a passionate plea with the board to keep its charter and avoid a fight with Shelby County schools in December.
Cash urged students to spend less time watching television and using cell phones and more time reading.
"Turn if off and open a book," he said.
He also said students should "pull up your pants" and remove or cover up visible tattoos. And he twice referred to the pregnancy problem which has gained national attention.
"Take your time and decide when you might have a child," he said.
He said the only time consolidation works is when "you actually are in class together with children who have achieved more academically" and added that "you really get a pop if you can live in the same community."
He praised Booker T. Washington High School for achieving a graduation rate of 82 percent last year and outscoring Central High School, a highly touted optional school, in reading and math. He said BTW is "within a couple points of White Station High School."
However, a close examination of the 2010 Tennessee Report Card for the three schools does not support that statement, no matter whether the measuring stick is ACT Test scores, value-added scores, or No Child Left Behind measurements of proficiency. Central and White Station score much higher in almost every category. BTW does outscore Central in the percentage of students achieving proficiency in math, 52 percent to 46 percent. White Station, an optional school with a large number of college-bound students, has much higher scores across the board.