Hopson: 300 Employees to Lose Jobs

By Bill Dries

By Friday, June 28, as many as 300 central office employees of the consolidated school system will be without a job as the schools merger is about to become official with the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

The merger of Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools formally begins Monday, July 1. In preparation, the sign outside the building that until recently housed the headquarters of both school districts was changed Tuesday to a common county schools sign.

(Daily News/Bill Dries)

“It will be a hard week,” interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Tuesday, June 25. But after the decisions about the front office jobs are made, Hopson said the school system will have a “laser-like focus” on preparing for the first day of classes on Aug. 5.

David Stephens, chief of staff and deputy superintendent of the countywide school system, is the highest-ranking legacy Shelby County Schools employee in the central office, holding what is the No. 2 position in the organization.

“We said it from day one is that we wanted to keep as many of the resources at the school level and the classroom level as possible,” Stephens said. “That’s one of the reasons this 26 percent cut was made.”

The central office cuts, which represent $18 million in savings, will bring to approximately 2,000 the number of employees from both school systems who have been let go as the two school systems become one. That includes a severance package for some teachers in both school systems.

The numbers are approximate because some of the central office employees who won’t be offered positions in the school system’s leadership could opt to return to teaching or administration at the schools level.

“We said the process would be fair. It would be fast. It would be disciplined. It would be transparent and we were going to select the best talent for these positions,” Hopson said, adding that everyone involved had to interview for their jobs. He added that those conducting interviews also had their own interview sessions and some will not be working for the merged school district after Friday.

We said it from day one ... we wanted to keep as many of the resources at the school level and the classroom level as possible.”

–David Stephens
Chief of staff and deputy superintendent, countywide school system

“Every employee in the central office process was interviewed for a position,” he said. “No one who did not take an interview was placed anywhere. I served as the gatekeeper to make sure that when we did a cursory look and then a deep dive look to make sure that (Equal Employment Opportunity) regulations were followed.”

Hopson said he was also watching for friction between the two systems at the higher levels and “instances where hiring managers who may have been selected from one legacy district weren’t giving employees from the other legacy district a fair shot.”

Hopson made the point a week after some Shelby County Commissioners said the central office staff was overwhelmingly weighted with Memphis City Schools system staff, some hired without interviewing for the jobs.

The combined central office staffs amounted to a 79 percent – 21 percent split with MCS employees in the majority before any decisions about who stays and who leaves were made. Once the last central office personnel decisions are made Friday, Hopson said the split will be 72 percent Memphis City Schools legacy and 28 percent Shelby County Schools legacy.

“You are probably going to be looking at about 80 percent of the applicants who did not receive offers are going to be legacy MCS employees and about 20 percent are going to be legacy SCS employees,” Hopson said.

Stephens said with those decisions made and percentages calculated more precisely, the school system hopes to shift attention to the school level.

“We just want to make sure that the folks out in the county and in the city understand that our goal is when the kids show up … in August that they are going to see exactly what they saw when they left at the end of the year,” he said. “Our goal is that things will improve and get better as we move forward. … We want to have the lean nimble central staff that we can support our schools.”