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VOL. 128 | NO. 80 | Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Schools Front Office Jobs Reopened

By Bill Dries

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Interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has restarted the process of reapplying for the top jobs in the consolidated school system.

HOPSON

All of the jobs in the merged school system’s central office, effectively the front office of the school system, were reopened for applications through April 29.

But every executive director position that had been posted before with the exception of executive director of safety and security has been eliminated from the new school system’s management chart.

It is the latest move by Hopson as he puts together a budget proposal for the Shelby County Commission in May. The commission was to get a look at audit findings this week.

Earlier, Hopson announced that all of those holding system-wide leadership positions in both school systems would have to reapply if they want jobs in the leadership of the new merged school system.

More than 200 central office jobs and positions were expected to be eliminated through that realignment.

Hopson, in a memo to the staff of both school systems dated Friday, April 19, said he and his cabinet had made the decision to eliminate all but one executive director’s position “to further reduce administrative costs in the central office.”

“By revisiting titles and salary ranges in the central office, we can preserve additional dollars for the classroom,” he added in the memo.

The reapplication process begins the same day that county commissioners open their budget hearings. The commission’s budget committee is scheduled to take up the consolidated school district’s budget proposal at an April 30 session.

Hopson, who became interim superintendent of both school systems in March, said he and his cabinet are putting together a budget proposal that plans for only $5 million in new county government funding for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Since then, however, Shelby County Commission Chairman Mike Ritz has said there may be as much as $9 million in new county funding available. The increase is because $4 million in new funding for Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies to take over for Memphis police officers in Memphis schools was included in the budget proposal of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

The goal of a 26 percent cut in the new school system’s central office was a key recommendation of the consolidation planning commission.

Those cuts, however, have been overshadowed as the last school year for two separate public school systems in Shelby County nears its end. As it does, principals begin assembling their faculties under new terms for such decisions and some are smaller because of enrollment declines at some schools.

The new conditions include an end to tenure and the practice of “bumping” or using seniority exclusively to find a place at another school. In the new system, principals and teachers must agree on an assignment. And the school system is moving to eliminate some “level 1” and “level 2” teachers under new standards for evaluating teachers. Levels 1 and 2 are the lowest level of teachers in terms of student growth and performance for one school year of instruction. A ranking of level 1 or level 2 isn’t automatic grounds for dismissal. School administrators can keep teachers at those levels if they see promise or hope of better student performance results with offers of professional development for the teachers.

The school systems filed a notice with the Tennessee Labor Department in March advising that there could be 639 job losses by the end of May, which is the end of the current school year.

Those job losses presumably include school staffing positions lost from the school board’s decision to outsource school custodial services jobs. The board has not yet picked a firm to provide those services, rejecting an earlier recommendation from the school system administration and rebidding the job.

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