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VOL. 127 | NO. 72 | Thursday, April 12, 2012

Commission Looks At Zone Freeze

By Bill Dries

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The schools consolidation planning commission will consider at its Thursday, April 12, meeting a plan to keep all children in the merged school system attending the schools they attend now, at least through the second year of the merger – the 2014-2015 school year.

The plan would not apply to schools that are closed for low enrollment or to areas within separate municipal school districts if such districts are formed. Municipal school districts would have their own elected school boards.

The attendance zone freeze is part of a set of recommendations the group will consider including combining the existing transfer policies of the now separate city and county school systems. The merged school system would also have a goal of allowing students to transfer to another school for any reason as long as the school they want to attend has available space.

The recommendation from the planning commission’s administrative organization and governance committee also calls for the school system to work with leaders of charter schools to develop a “centralized enrollment system” for charter schools.

The planning commission will also discuss a more specific organizational chart developed since it approved in March the general idea of a decentralized system with six regions and multiple ways for schools of all kinds to operate with more autonomy.

There would be eight chiefs who report directly to the superintendent.

They include a chief of staff, a chief academic officer, a chief innovation officer, a chief human capital officer, a chief financial officer, a chief services officer and a chief communications officer.

The Memphis City Schools superintendent currently has nine people who report directly to him. The Shelby County Schools superintendent has eight.

While the numbers are close, the functions aren’t. Every part of the schools structure, even apart from charter schools and state-run or supervised schools in the Achievement School District, would include options for schools to seek more autonomy.

The innovation office would have nine positions, not including administrative staff, who work with the chief innovation officer. That includes a director of charter schools, and a ”regional” superintendent of innovation zone schools – low-performing schools not yet part of the state-run and -supervised Achievement School District.

One of the goals of the innovation office in the proposal is to ensure “all types of schools – charter, Innovation Zone, optional and community schools – have access to innovative approaches.” The innovation office would also be the contact for schools with more autonomy who want to contract with the countywide school system for services including building maintenance and transportation.

The six regional superintendents who oversee six geographic regions would each have three staff positions including a director of instructional support.

The regional leaders would work primarily with school principals in their regions, evaluating them and serving as the front line of new district initiatives as well as professional development for principals. They would also oversee school feeder patterns within the region to take a larger view of students as they move from elementary to middle to high school.

The six regional superintendents would report to the chief academic officer.

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