Chris Terrill named Executive Director of Crosstown High

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The Board of Directors of Crosstown High (XTH), the forthcoming public charter school that will be located inside Crosstown Concourse, has announced that it has selected Chris Terrill to be its Executive Director.

Mr. Terrill comes to Crosstown High from Mooresville, North Carolina, where he has served as the Head of Schools for Pine Lake Preparatory since June 2012. Prior to that, he was the Founding Principal of both Oasis Middle School and Oasis High School in Cape Coral, Florida. He began his career as an administrator as the Principal of Hill City Middle School and Elementary School in Hill City, Kansas. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Friends University and a Masters Degree in School Leadership from Baker University.

Chris Terrill and his wife Keena, also an educator, are the parents of four daughters, two of whom are in college. The Terrills and their two youngest daughters will relocate to Memphis this summer and will reside in an apartment inside Crosstown Concourse.

As the inaugural Executive Director of Crosstown High, Terrill will, in conjunction with the Board and other members of his school leadership team, administer the curriculum, instructional programs, standards, and promote the school’s unique vision of project-based learning and use of personalized learning plans for its eventual co-ed student body of 500 scholars.

He will be responsible for oversight and development of all academic programs and curricula; faculty and staff hiring, professional development, compensation, other personnel matters; and student enrollment, attendance, and discipline, and will also oversee budgeting, financial management, fundraising, technology, and management of school facilities. Terrill will also assist and guide the Board in making decisions in all areas covered under school governance and contract guidelines with the Shelby County Schools district.

Crosstown High plans to welcome its first class of students in Fall 2018.

“My career has been driven by a desire to create exceptional educational experiences for young people that prepare them for the challenges of our rapidly evolving world, regardless of their socio-economic background. I look forward to utilizing every bit of my experience and abilities to do just that in the biggest and best way possible for the students of Crosstown High,” said Terrill. “On every level, Crosstown High and the entire Crosstown Concourse project are about creating the future. This is truly the opportunity of a lifetime for me.”

“It was clear from our very first conversation with Chris that he possessed not only the kind of strong, successful track record that would make him a desirable hire at any school, but he also has incredible imagination for what Crosstown High needs to become — a diverse, challenging school where students are deeply engaged in learning, personal growth, and creativity,” said XTH Board member Meg Crosby, who chaired the selection committee. “He brings a wealth of on-the-ground and in-the-classroom experience and couples it with a passion for new models and systems of instruction that make him an ideal fit Crosstown High. We are very excited to work with him to build this unique school.”

“A public high school at Crosstown Concourse has been under discussion for years. Every single one of its tenants and founding partners agree that it is essential to capturing, amplifying, and passing forward the immense value that this remarkable and special project will generate,” says John Smarrelli, Jr., Chairman of the XTH Board of Directors. “Chris understands that on an intuitive level, and he is fearless about jumping into a start-up situation and getting to work.”

A search for Crosstown High’s Principal is ongoing. Interested applicants are encouraged to view the qualifications and apply at


Listening and Learning with Design Thinking

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October 1 was pretty much a perfect day to be outside, but despite the gorgeous weather, about 30 students, parents, educators and other community members gathered at story booth, across the street from Crosstown Concourse, to participate in the first-ever Crosstown High Design Thinking Workshop.

Design Thinking is a way of tackling challenges by listening deeply to your end users to find out what they want and need out of a product or experience. In our case…high school! From the beginning, the Crosstown High design team has sought input from the community to learn how we can create a high school that will engage students in meaningful learning to prepare them for their futures. The Design Thinking Workshop helped us continue this deep listening process.


Click photo to watch our Design Thinking Workshop Video!

So, what did we learn from the students during the workshop? 

  • They want opportunities to form real relationships with teachers and administrators. They need spaces where they can interact with adults and form mentorships (and friendships). Students want less time spent reviewing rules and codes of conduct — “it is distracting and shifts the focus from learning to policing.”
  • Students want more focus on incorporating “the outside world.” They seek opportunities to help the community as part of their curriculum, and to participate in clubs centered around “what we really care about” such as sustainability, gender issues, civil rights, and urban art. They also want more events and initiatives involving other Memphis schools.
  • A school’s physical environment and surrounding spaces are really important. Inside, students want lots of natural light and spaces that are comfortable and inviting — that means no rows of cramped desks. They crave big rooms with space to move around in, in which they can study in different ways (alone and collaboratively). It’s also important that there be a place where they can get outside and get fresh air.
  • Students want to learn in new ways. They asked for alternatives to the lecture model — more discussions and debate. They want hands-on learning experiences.
  • Downtime is important — they need time during the school day to take a breather. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to get away from teachers. One student asked for a student and teacher lounge!

Are you a student? What do you hope to see in Crosstown High? Leave your reply below!

XTH Design Thinking Workshop 10.1.2016

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The vision for Crosstown High came from talking with hundreds of Memphians about what the high school of the future should look like. To guide us, we used a process called Design Thinking. Now that we have approval to open our school in 2018, we want to keep the conversation going!

You’re invited to join us for the first-ever Crosstown High Design Thinking Workshop at story booth (438 N. Cleveland) on Saturday, October 1, 10 am – 3:30 pm. Registration is limited to about 30 participants.


Photo: Joanna Zhang

The good people at Southern Growth Studio will lead us through a workshop that will help us explore ways to keep student voice at the heart of Crosstown High. We’ll explore questions like:

  • How do we ensure student voice influences the development of Crosstown High?
  • How can the school’s physical environment best support students?
  • What’s the best way to recruit a truly diverse student body?

This will be a fast-paced, highly interactive day so come ready to jump in!


  • Students (6th grade and up), educators and parents are welcome
  • Lunch, snacks and drinks provided
  • Workshops like this are usually pricey, but this one’s FREE!
  • We also need a few high school students who’d be willing to serve as interview subjects to come in the morning (10-11:50) and ideally return in the afternoon (2:15-3:00 pm).


*Never heard of Design Thinking? Learn more in this short video!

XQ Super School Project Winners Announced

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From Justin Jamerson, member of the Crosstown High Board of Directors and participant in the Memphis XQ Super Schools Challenge:

Today it was announced that Crosstown High’s application for the XQ Super School Project was not selected as one of the ten grand prize winners in the competition. While we are obviously disappointed at the news, we are still very grateful to the XQ Institute for the opportunity this process has given us. Out of almost 700 initial applicants, we are extremely proud to have made it to the final fifty teams.  We remain excited about the content of our application and are hard at work on making it a reality for our inaugural class of 9th graders in 2018. The months of hard work by dozens of students, parents, teachers, and community members on our XQ team have created a terrific foundation on which we will continue to build.

We are especially grateful for the partnership of Crosstown Concourse’s leaders and their tenants throughout this process. There is no better home for this school than Crosstown Concourse. We are eager to see what happens when high school students are able to put their education into practice by working on real-world challenges with some of the most innovative businesses and nonprofits in our city.

Crosstown High will be a new type of school unique to Memphis.  It will be a place where young people are empowered and encouraged to learn in an environment that is collaborative, conscientious, and supported. There are many great schools in Memphis, but the vision of the Crosstown High XQ team was to bring a unique learning environment to the city. Through the XQ Super School Project, the school has been designed as nothing less than a model for the future of education. We hope that our investment will pay dividends not only for our own students at Crosstown High, but for the entire Memphis region.

Thank you to all who gave their ideas to help us reach the finals of this contest. We will continue to rely on our community for input as the school’s development continues. Please join our mailing list at to be notified of opportunities to learn more and contribute to the creation of Crosstown High. We cannot do it without you.