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VOL. 129 | NO. 103 | Wednesday, May 28, 2014

School Board Begins Contract Extension Talks, Approves Two Charters

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Schools board members have authorized the board’s attorney to begin talks with attorneys for superintendent Dorsey Hopson about a possible extension of his three-year contract to lead the school system.

The authorization came in the form of a notice to the board at its Tuesday, May 27, meeting that talks were about to begin.

No vote has been set by the school board because at this point there are no terms of a tentative agreement for the board to act on.

School board members first talked publicly of a possible contract extension during a forum last week.

In order for the current seven-member school board to vote on the matter, the vote must come at least 45 days before school board elections, which are on the Aug. 7 county general election ballot. The state law that sets action on a contract renewal 45 days or more before a school board election would mean the board could vote at its June 17 work session or any time before June 23 at a special called voting meeting.

Meanwhile, the school board approved applications Tuesday for two new charter schools, both to be operated by Gestalt Community Schools – Power Center Elementary School in Hickory Hill and Crosstown High School in the Crosstown redevelopment project.

They will be the fourth and fifth charter schools operated in Memphis by Gestalt which was created initially to operate the Power Center Academy charter school that opened in 2008 in Hickory Hill.

Gestalt also operates Humes Preparatory Academy and Klondike Preparatory Academy in North Memphis as part of the state-run Achievement School District.

Power Center Elementary School and Crosstown High School would operate independently of the Achievement School District. Crosstown High School would open in the 2015-2016 school year, according to Shelby County Schools officials.

The school board rejected 13 other charter school applications as recommended by superintendent Dorsey Hopson and his staff. The charter school organizations that were rejected can amend their applications to the school system in the next 30 days and the school board will probably review any amended applications at its July 22 work session. If the applications are again rejected by the school board, the organizations can appeal to the Tennessee Department of Education.

School board members also approved a $5.4 million three-year contract with Unistar Sparco Computers Inc. to lease 13,000 digital learning devices including a “blended learning” curriculum that will be given to students in 16 Shelby County Schools when the new school year begins in August. School board members looked over the first laptops for teachers and netbooks for students to arrive Tuesday before the vote.

The 16 schools are the pilot program for the devices and curriculum that are designed to continue learning beyond the school day through the devices that students take home with them.

The first training sessions in the curriculum were to begin Wednesday at the school system’s headquarters.

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