Shelby County School Superintendent Hopson announces plans to help failing schools

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The new plan for the Shelby County School System is called an Assessment Framework. It will be used to evaluate all schools moving forward and let everyone know what factors go into a decision to close a school.

"What we have learned in the past is that whenever we start talking about school closures, first of all our community seems to have not known what the clear factors were that led to the decision. So we want to be clear about that," said Shelby County School Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

On a phone conference Tuesday with WREG and local media, Hopson laid out how schools will be assessed.
They will look at academic performance - things like college and career readiness, the school building itself-is it in bad shape and how much is utilized,  the school climate-including attendance and teaching quality, and Neighborhood and Community Needs-- what's happening to surrounding housing that may affect the schools.

"We decided that we were gonna invest in these schools and give these schools a chance to improve," said Hopson.

It comes on the heels of the school district closing 28 schools over the last 5 years. Those closures have led to emotionally charged meetings full of blame.

"Why haven't you? You failed. Your schools are failing. Your schools are pushing people out of Memphis," said parent Brian McBride.

Even then the superintendent explained they had tough decisions to make.

"Do we cut athletics, tinker with benefits, cut CLUE?" said Hopson during a meeting last year.

The superintendent said going forward, the assessment framework will let teachers, parents and everyone know where they stand and what they need to do. That means failing schools have a chance to get it right.

"You can give a community hope and support a community in truly improving school performance as an alternative to closure, then certainly that's the preferred path," said Hopson.

This boils down to two lists of schools. Here are the eight schools that the district already has planned to consolidate or rebuild. Those plans will continue:

Alcy Elementary School | New school
Charjean Elementary School | Consolidation
Goodlett Elementary School | New school
Knight Road Elementary School | Consolidation
Lucy Elementary School | Consolidation
Magnolia Elementary School | Consolidation
Northaven Elementary School | Consolidation
Woodstock Middle School | New school

But 11 schools that have been put on the critical list have in essence been given life support. They are:

Alton Elementary School
Georgian Hills Middle School
Hamilton Elementary School
Hamilton Middle School
Hawkins Mill Elementary School
Manor Lake Elementary School
Scenic Hills Elementary School
Springdale Elementary School
Trezevant High School
Westwood High School
Wooddale High School

Instead of closing, these schools will all have a chance to improve before any more closing decisions are made. They will receive a tailored plan that could include financial support, new faculty, new school facilities, upgraded technology, mentoring, tutoring and volunteer support.

All of this will be presented to the school board at its meeting Tuesday night.