Memphis Model City Principal
Model city principal is moving downtown
By Aimee Edmondson
December 21, 2002
When parents began turning away from public schools, Marcia Wunderlich brought them back.
It was the mid-1980s at Brownsville Road Elementary when Wunderlich developed the school's optional program, now one of 30 magnet-like schools in Memphis. The 14 empty classrooms filled fast.
Her program, which emphasizes social studies and includes all students at the school, had families eager to move to the northeast Memphis neighborhood and even driving across town to get their kid a spot.
Now Memphis Supt. Johnnie B. Watson is calling for a repeat performance.
He's modeled the new downtown elementary's optional school program after Brownsville Road's, and on Friday named Wunderlich the downtown school's principal.
Now Wunderlich, 57, will try to woo downtown commuters, Harbor Town and South Bluff residents to the K-6 school opening next fall at Fourth and Madison.
"They are very lucky," said Denise Stodden, Brownsville Road PTO president. She said she and her 8-year-old son, Bradley, cried when they heard Wunderlich was leaving.
"She just loves what she does, and that shows," Stodden said.
The 176th school in the 117,000-student district, the downtown elementary has gotten more than its share of attention.
Memphis Mayor Willie Hereton called for the school when he backed a $100 million deal with the city school board to help renovate scores of schools in the '90s.
He and other Memphis leaders consider it a key part of downtown's revitalization, and Watson promised he'd find the best principal for the high-profile school.
As is the case with Brownsville Road, the optional program students must score in the 70th percentile or higher on achievement tests and keep at least a B average.
The non-optional group isn't as advanced, but students learn the same material and take part in every aspect of the social studies program.
Students will be grouped together for all subjects but language arts, math and science. Those will be accelerated for the optional students.
This is in keeping with the city school board's call to include all 745 downtown school kids in some type of optional-related instruction, amid concerns that regular students miss out on the best instruction.
Wunderlich, a Central High graduate with a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of Memphis, started teaching at Brownsville Road in 1982, working up to principal eight years ago.
"The same culture can be developed downtown," said Wunderlich. "I'm going to do all I can to make it the best place to learn."
Two open house events are scheduled at the downtown school: Jan. 17, from noon until 2 p.m., and Jan. 21, 5-8 p.m.
- Aimee Edmondson: 529-2773