Private sector tapped for public school improvements to Whitehaven and White Station high schools

For former White Station High School parent Richard Myers, lawyer with Glankler Brown, something needed to be done about the deteriorating condition of some of Memphis' public schools. So he came up with an innovative plan to fund improvements for White Station High and Whitehaven High, that if successful, might stand as a model for other local public schools.

“A lot of the public schools in Shelby County are getting really, really old, and the money to upgrade them just is not there,” said Myers, who cites the SCS district’s $476 million deferred maintenance deficit. “They barely have the money to chip away at deferred maintenance, much less upgrade the facilities and make them 21st century schools.”

So Myers is leading the way on a pilot program with a goal of upgrading White Station High School and Whitehaven High School. Much like at many private schools, private funds will be used to fund design and construction.

“The physical condition of White Station is just abysmal,” said Myers.

The SCS school system agreed that Myers could privately plan improvements, raise private funds, hold it privately in a 501c3 and hire a contractor to get the work done.

Partnering with the University of Memphis architecture program resulted in a 50-page master development plan for White Station High and Whitehaven High. Along the way, SCS changed its policy to allow donor recognition at the improved sites.

The first project at White Station will be a $175,000 community courtyard, which will be a green pocket park in a currently blighted area at the center of campus. A grant from the City of Memphis helped fund the designs from Dalhoff Thomas design Studio.

Fundraising for the initial project has passed the halfway mark for the needed funds, and Myers hopes to have the full amount within the next two months.

Once that project is completed, fundraising will begin for the $3 million library expansion, which will increase the size of the school’s library from 8,000 square feet to more than 14,000 square feet. Designshop is the lead architect.

“We’re going to renovate it, add about 6,000 square feet, and give a new façade to the front of the school,” said Myers.

Once the library is finished, work will turn to a new 10-story STEM building to bring the school into the 21st century. Currently, 2,200 students share only two small lab spaces, while similarly sized schools might have eight to 10.

Proposed improvements to Whitehaven High include the addition of a STEM building and a new vocational tech building.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
Signup for Email Alerts