Shelby County Schools (SCS) Superintendent Dorsey Hopson, SCS Chief of Staff Reginald Porter, and SCS Board Chair Kevin Woods addressed the media today on several key issues affecting the school system.
On the budget:
* Hopson said SCS has $227 million less in this year's budget than in last year's budget. Budget hearings will begin on Friday and last for 4 to 6 weeks.
* Some SCS central office positions may be cut, but Hopson said "the goal is to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible."
* SCS board members will be tasked soon with voting on more than two dozen student attendance zoning changes. Re-zoning adjustments are needed because of the separate municipal school districts that are opening in the new school year. Several public re-zoning hearings that were scheduled for this week have been rescheduled because of the weather.
* Hopson said his proposals would "keep zoning as close to [students'] houses as possible." Porter vowed that "student interest is first and foremost when we make the decisions."
On school closures:
* Although Westhaven Elementary students will be moving to Fairley Elementary next school year because Westhaven's building is in poor condition and must be demolished, the board plans to ask the Shelby County Commission for $11 million to build a new school that will be occupied by Westhaven and Fairley students. Hopson said Fairley would eventually be torn down as well, if the commission grants the funds to build a new school. Woods said he believes the Shelby County Commission would support this plan, and he feels confident they'll vote to fund construction of a new school for Westhaven and Fairley.
* Northside High School, which was on the chopping block for closure, was one of a few schools the board voted to keep open. They have a year to boost enrollment and academic achievement. Hopson said that could possibly be accomplished by boosting career and technology programs there in the hope of attracting back students. Currently, 300 students are zoned to attend Northside, but only 280 kids are enrolled there. Hopson said it's important for that school to win kids back. If Northside doesn't improve in one year, it will be forced to close, and Hopson said the board will be in talks with Memphis Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb about alternate uses for the building.
* Hopson said he's still working on plan for what will happen to the nine school buildings that are closing next school year. He said some may be sold, and others may be released to charter schools.
On new schools:
* Hopson said they'll be doing an analysis to determine if any neighborhoods could actually support more schools. He believes there's a need to build a new school in southeast Shelby County and one near northwest Shelby County around the Bartlett area.
On the SCS cleaning contract:
* The new budget includes about $1 million more for a contract with cleaning company, GCA. Hopson said "It's no secret there were a lot of complaints" about how well the company was cleaning schools in the past, and he blamed those problems on a staffing issue with the cleaning company. Budgeting more should pay for more workers to clean schools, he said.