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VOL. 128 | NO. 79 | Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hopson Eliminates All But One Executive Director's Position

By Bill Dries

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The still forming central office of the consolidated school sytem will include only one executive director -- the executive director of safety and security.

Interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has reposted central office positions following his decision last week to eliminate all of one of the executive director positions from the city and county school systems in the front office of the new school system to come.

It is the latest move by Hopson as he puts together a budget proposal for the Shelby County Commission. 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 even before the most recent 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 change means the process of reapplying for central office jobs will begin all over starting Tuesday, April 23. The new deadline for applying is extended to Monday, April 29.

Meanwhile, the Shelby County Election Commission estimates a special election for a countywide school board of 13 members with a new set of district lines probably couldn’t go on a special election ballot until December at the earliest.

The estimate comes in a Monday, April 22, filing by election commission attorney John Ryder in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.

Ryder was asked by Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays to come up with a cost estimate for holding a special election this year for six new seats on the school board the Shelby County Commission wants to add effective Sept. 1.

That is when the school board, now a 23-member body, becomes a seven-member body covering the entire county.

In a 2011 settlement among all parties in the schools merger lawsuit, all sides agreed that the commission had the authority to expand the board at that point to a total of up to 13 members. Mays made that contingent on his approval of the expansion.

At a hearing last week on the commission’s formal motion to permit it to expand the board to 13 members and appoint the six new members between now and Sept. 1, Mays said there is nothing in the settlement agreement that specifically gives the commission the power to expand the board through appointments.

He hasn’t ruled on the commission’s request pending a round of filings from all sides in the lawsuit by Friday and another April 30 hearing.

Attorneys for the countywide school board and suburban leaders oppose the commission’s appointment of the six new members. They have each urged Mays to permit a delayed expansion of the board by putting the six new positions on the August 2014 county general election ballot.

Mays specifically wanted some estimates from Ryder on the timing and cost of holding a special election this year for the six new school board seats only.

Such an election would involve 107 election precincts and would likely cost approximately $425,000, according to Ryder. That is based on the cost of a March 8, 2011, Memphis special election involving 171 precincts. The special election was the citywide referendum on the proposal to merge city and county public school systems as well as an election to fill a vacant state House seat. The special election cost $551,846.

State laws set a timeline by which public notices must be posted a certain number of days before an election as well as specific time periods for early voting and mailing ballots for overseas and military voters as well as absentee voting.

The election commission would also need time to adjust the district boundaries of precincts to match the new school board district lines involved.

The election commission’s information technology department would need until Nov. 6 just for that, according to Ryder.

“Applying the legal timeframes for early voting, military voting and ballot approval, the Election Commission believes that it could not hold an election prior to December 5, 2013,” Ryder wrote in his filing.

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