Recent changes to the Memphis and Shelby County school systems may only appear to be affecting students and parents, but Shelby County School District Supt. Dorsey Hopson clearly knows otherwise.
Hopson came to the summer journalism camp at the University of Memphis on Monday (July 29) and had a chance to hear from some of the students who will be a part of the upcoming unified school system.
"Everyday there is something to worry about... like 20 tests in one day," said Hopson, in an attempt to convey to the students the difficulty he faces on the job.
Hopson said he will be reaching out to the Memphis community and listening to what people want. Every student in the room understood that Hopson was genuinely concerned with each question and the advice given to him.
After all, many of the students have been a part of the school system for 11 years and know the in's and out's. Roughly 70 journalism students sat in a classroom on the university campus and asked about the things that concerned them and yes, even gave advice.
One of the biggest concerns among young people as it pertains to the changes of the unified school system was the start times. This year, students enrolled in the unified school system will have to arrive 30 minutes earlier and will leave only 15 minutes earlier. This isn't really going over well with many students and parents who are used to barely making it on time as it. Sure enough, with all of those high school students in one room, that was one of the first topics he was asked to speak on.
Hopson said that in order to save money on busing students, it would be much easier for all schools to be harmonious and operate the same. And in the effort to operate the same, arrival and dismissal times were the first priority.
However, Hopson couldn't possibly answer that question and simply be done. This led to more questions from students. The main point of his answer was for all the schools to be harmonious and run the same. This triggered questions like, "Well, if we are to be all the same, then why do I still have to wear uniforms?" He said that with all the changes going on so quickly and the number of things changing, by the time the school board got to uniforms, it was too late to change it. They didn't want to spring that on parents so close to the beginning of the start of school.
When asked about plans if merging does not have significant progress or even has unforeseen downfalls, Hopson said getting stronger is the only option. He mentioned there would be no unmerging or any decrease in progress. He told the group that because of the school systems' low ranking on test scores and overall efficiency, becoming a better and stronger school system is the only option.
Although Hopson has been dealt an interesting hand when it comes to unifying these schools, he is confident that he is the man for the job.
(Deidra Shores, former NBC "Today Show Kid Reporter" and student at Cordova High School, is the TSD iTeen Reporter.)