02 NovAbout Us

The MCS Foundation is managed by a professional staff with the guidance of an active, involved Board of Directors. We work with donors who wish to enhance educational opportunities for all students by making one-time gifts, annual pledges, lifetime gifts or legacy gifts. The Foundation’s current focus is supporting the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative. We support TEI by:
1. Investing in teaching and learning. We raise funds and awareness to enhance teacher effectiveness and accelerate academic achievement.


2. Mobilizing the community. We encourage and engage the community to give their time and treasure to support Memphis City School’s quest to be a best-in class public school system.


3. Acting as good stewards. We take seriously the trust the public has bestowed upon us as the fiscal agent for their donations and we continuously analyze, evaluate and report on our investments in students and teachers.




Meet a leader

Kim Wirth

Problem solver and education advocate keeps her eye on target
She grew up and went to school in a small town and has worked for the same employer, International Paper, since she graduated with a public relations degree from Auburn University. But Kim Wirth doesn’t hesitate to credit some of what she’s achieved to teachers.


“I believe education is the great equalizer,” Kim says. “I have personally experienced growing up in a very small town and having teachers who made sure I was still looking at the whole world.”


That belief in education was at the heart of her decision to join the MCS Foundation board – even before the gift from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative (TEI) had become concrete realities.


“I’m a problem solver at heart. That’s what I like to do at home and at work,” she said. “And that’s definitely what this work is about. We haven’t figured out the whole problem, but we’re definitely making strides. I say, ‘Let’s just get in the car and start driving.’ I like to see progress and milestones.”


Kim grew up on a family farm in Wayne County in Middle Tennessee and has worked for International Paper for 15 years—ten of those in the Memphis area, where she and her husband have made a home with their three children, now 8, 11 and 12.


Her current position is Senior Communications Manager for Printing and Communications Papers and Sustainability. She and her team of five provide communications support for the paper, packaging and distribution division of IP, as well as for the company’s corporate social responsibility division.

As chair of the MCS Foundation Board she is more excited and optimistic than ever about the potential impact of TEI and all the other reform efforts taking place within MCS.


“I think what draws me to this work is the marriage of a strategy to the day-to-day practical application,” she says. “The first steps have been putting a vision down on paper, getting the money to fund it and starting this body of work. Those are significant.


“But we’ve already made great strides in teacher evaluation. We’re putting a strong formula in place and we’re bringing in a great talent pool.”

As an education advocate who lives in Shelby County and whose kids attend county schools, Kim is hopeful that the merger of the two systems will include the historic reform efforts now in place in the city schools.


“It’s a great tool that MCS can bring to the table,” she said. “TEI is a body of work that will have impact for all students across the unified district.”

And she’s hopeful that the reality of an effective teacher in EVERY public school classroom is possible.


“I absolutely think it can happen,” she said. “When you look at the city, it has to happen. If we can’t overcome this stigma about Memphis, it’s going to continue to mire the city. We don’t have a choice. If you live in Shelby County or in Memphis you should care about this issue.”


William Mitchell
A volunteer in the quest to put an effective teacher in every classroom


When Vince McCaskill approached William Mitchell about becoming a charter member of the board of the Memphis City Schools Foundation, Mitchell was flattered by the invitation and excited by the possibilities. At the same time, he was reluctant—the foundation was brand new and still forming, with no track record.


Ultimately, though, Mitchell’s deeply rooted love for Memphis and firm belief in the value of education won out and today he’s a committed board member with an unwavering faith in the potential of our school system.


“I come from a family of educators,” he said. “I think I understand the challenges that teachers have. And I believe in education. I know that’s where your thoughts are formed and where your drive is initiated.”


Today, securing the matching funds required for the $90 million gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund the Teacher Effective Initiative is a huge part of the foundation’s work.


“I think the grant and TEI enables the administration to look at education from a bird’s-eye perspective,” Mitchell says. “It will be a game-changer for education here in the city of Memphis.”


But the foundation’s purpose goes beyond any one initiative or gift, Mitchell says. It’s about investing in the future of education as a whole in Memphis.


“I’m in the real estate business,” says Mitchell, a Germantown High School graduate, a member of the first graduating class at Shelby State Community College and a realtor for the last 30 years, now working with Crye-Leike. “I have a few houses here and there and I take resources and do a little something here and there to ensure that 10 years from now the property is not falling down. You’ve got to continually feed your assets. And if we’re not looking at the education system of the city as an asset, then we’re being short-sighted in our quest of being a better city.”


Mitchell is a great ambassador for the Memphis, and will tout everything from its rich history to its legacy in civil rights and music to the variety of its neighborhoods to its culture of niceness and respect.


“The thing we really need to work on is our educational system,” he says. “We need to make sure our children are the best educated, the best prepared—and we have to continue to press that mind set. When we do, our children will be able to fully appreciate all these attributes of this great city.


“The key to all of it is addressing it, not ignoring it,” he says. “And now we’re truly addressing it.”


Board of Directors


Kim Wirth, Chairman of the Board
International Paper, Inc.


William Mitchell, Treasurer
Crye Leike Realtors


Lisa Wheeler
Valero Energy


Ken Foster
Memphis Education Association


David Cocke
Evans/Petree Law Firm


Russell Fleming
Foundation Staff
Vincent J. McCaskill
Executive Director