05 Sep 2013
- Written by Dr. Karanja A. Ajanaku
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Recently, while speaking to a group of Memphians committed to raising the number of college graduates in the city, Dorsey Hopson started out by saying, "thanks."
Six months ago, he could not have envisioned standing before the attendees as the interim superintendent of the newly merged Shelby County Schools, he said.
Well, if so, that means that he did not see coming then what happened to him on Tuesday night. The Shelby County Board of Education – a seven-member body operating one short – unanimously turned to Hopson to lead the district on a permanent basis. The move meant the end of a nationwide search to find "the right person" for the job.
The son of educators and a lawyer by training, Hopson is a fresh example of what and who can come out of Memphis-area schools. At the session before the Memphis Talent Dividend, he offered a glimpse of "where we are and where we are headed." With Tuesday's action by the SCS board, his earlier remarks gain weight.
Hitting on one of his recurring themes, Hopson cautioned about falling prey to the hype and said beware of the sensational-sounding news relative to the Memphis City Schools-Shelby County Schools merger, the biggest in U.S. history.
"When you hear that (the sensational), and the focus is that, it is very easy to get distracted and take focus away from student achievement," he said. "I am committed to changing the conversation from all the operational buzz to how are we going to make better educational opportunity for all."
Back in March, Hopson stressed, the fledgling unified school district administration was tasked with cutting the budget by $75 million and essentially adjusting to "doing more with less." During that process, the sole focus was to make changes that would be the least disruptive to the classroom, he said.
Citing his visits to about 25 schools, Hopson said the school-year opening had been one the most smooth in some time, according to first-hand feedback. Still, that was before nagging lags about the delivery of paychecks to some teachers.
"I would just urge each and everyone of you ... when you hear the noise, when you hear the rumors, I would urge you all to work to dispel them," Hopson said to the group.
"I am extraordinarily open and transparent and available. If you hear something, call me."
While the session was focused specifically on addressing the achievement gap dividing African-American males from success, Hopson said African-American males' achievement would be aided by three-strategies that would benefit all students:
• A focus on having high-quality teachers and principals in every school;
• The need to be sure that all of the students and schools in the bottom five percent of state achievement have some intentional treatment designed to raise student achievement;
• A push to raise the literacy rate for all students.
He concluded with this:
"We are looking for different ways to partner with anyone who wants to partner and help."