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VOL. 129 | NO. 168 | Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hopson Changes School System’s Front Office

By Bill Dries

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The set of four regional superintendents of Memphis City Schools came and went and came back in the last 40 years of the school system that merged in 2012 with Shelby County Schools.


Along with the tier of management came verdicts about whether the school system’s central office was becoming more centralized or more decentralized depending on the education climate and trends of the day. The opinions about the effects on centralizing authority or dispersing it also varied greatly.

Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s restructuring of the central office, announced at the Tuesday, Aug. 26, school board meeting, does away with the regional superintendents that had been brought back in 2008 as one of the first moves of Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash.

Hopson said it’s a move to make the central office “a service center or hub, if you would, to support schools” when it comes to academics.

He described the regional superintendents tier as “somewhat outdated.”

“It’s not the best service model,” he told the board. “It’s not the closest to the schools.”

Hopson has replaced the regional superintendents with three associate superintendents.

The three positions are divided among schools, academics and schools operations.

Hopson has appointed Cynthia Alexander-Mitchell as associate superintendent of academics and Angela Whitelaw as associate superintendent for schools.

Both have been instructional leadership directors under regional superintendents, working closely with principals as a coach in leadership training.

Before that, both were school principals in the legacy Memphis City Schools system.

Hopson continues to search for a chief academic officer, a position that has been vacant since Roderick Richmond left at the end of June.

When the position is filled, Hopson said the three associate superintendents will report to that person. For now, they will report directly to him.

“We hit the pause button with Carol Johnson coming in,” Hopson said of the hiring of a new chief academic officer and the former Memphis City Schools superintendent who is advising Hopson. “We put that on hold. We don’t want to rush that.”

Hopson also announced this week that Gerald Darling will remain as director of safety and security services, but that Darling’s job will also now encompass being chief of student services.

Herchel Burton had been chief of student services before leaving to take the same position with the new Collierville Schools system. Darling’s position had been a part of Burton’s team at Shelby County Schools.

The Tuesday school board meeting marked the last meeting for school board members David Reaves and David Pickler.

As of Sept. 1, the Shelby County Schools board becomes a nine-member board covering districts that take in the city of Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County but none of the six suburban towns and cities that elected their own school boards last year and formed their own municipal school districts.

Pickler and Reaves represented districts on the current seven-member countywide school board that took in some of the suburban towns and cities.

Both had served on the legacy Shelby County Schools board, Pickler since just before the county school board became an elected instead of appointed body in 1998. He was also chairman of the elected county school board right up to its merger with Memphis City Schools.

Reaves was elected to the county school board in 2010, just as the Memphis City Schools board began the move to the merger. When Reaves’ tenure on the school board ends, he will become a Shelby County Commissioner, one of six new commissioners elected earlier this month.

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