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Memphis grade school principal hoped mock funeral would inspire teachers. It didn’t.

The principal of a Memphis elementary school threw a mock funeral to inspire her teachers to improve student test scores. But teachers who were offended ended up walking out of the room. (Twitter, ABC 13 Houston)
The principal of a Memphis elementary school threw a mock funeral to inspire her teachers to improve student test scores. But teachers who were offended ended up walking out of the room. (Twitter, ABC 13 Houston)

A Memphis grade school principal’s plan to inspire her teachers to work harder to improve student test scores was DOA.

Tina Smith, principal of Getwell Elementary, staged a mock funeral to encourage teachers to bury the school’s faltering test scores, Fox 13 in Memphis reported.

The TV station obtained details and photos of the faux funeral. Plants and flowers surrounded a table covered with black cloth. A square basket with a baby doll inside sat on the table.

The Whitney Houston song “Greatest Love of All” - which includes the lyrics “I believe the children are our are future. Teach them well and let them lead the way” - was played, the TV station reported.

There were funeral cards that read: “In Loving Memory of Madam 2 to 3 Years Behind.”

The latest Public School Review for the school, which has about 430 students in pre-K through fifth grade, shows that it is struggling. For the 2014-15 school year, Getwell placed in the bottom 50 percent of all schools in the state for overall test scores; math and reading proficiency scores were in the bottom 50 percent.

“Her point was ... we are burying the data,” Keith Williams of the Memphis-Shelby County Teachers Association, told Fox 13.

A Smithton Elementary School science teacher talks about her simple steps to make science fun for her students and how she applies science to their everyday lives. The scores show it is working.

He said Smith told the teachers to play the part of mourners. But “some of the teachers who recently had challenges with childbirth were overwhelmed and just left the room,” he said.

In statements to Yahoo and Fox News, school district officials acknowledged that the “funeral” had taken place.

“The principal planned a variety of activities during in-service last week aimed to renew the focus and commitment of staff members in the new year,” read the statement to Yahoo.

“One activity involved a mock funeral, which was designed as a symbolic act to eliminate negativity and excuses associated with previous years of poor academic performance.

“Discussions focused on positive strategies and expectations for helping all students be successful. However, after speaking with a few concerned staff members, the principal acknowledged how the activity could be seen as insensitive and personally apologized to the entire staff.”

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