Our exclusive talk with the SCS Superintendent as the school board considers extending his contract.

5/18/2017, 12:20 p.m.
Our exclusive talk with the SCS Superintendent as the school board considers extending his contract.
The TSD Interview: Dorsey E. Hopson Photo by Lee Eric Smith

Karanja A. Ajanaku: When the board did its last evaluation … you got high water marks relative to … community engagement and … needs improvement relative to staff development. What does that staff development mean and what’s the difference between then and now?

Supt. Dorsey E. Hopson: Firstly, I do want to thank the board. … I’ve been evaluated three times, all of them are exceeds … expectations. … I think that the feedback was good feedback … around developing or making sure we have transition plans and kind of make sure that there are people on deck to be able to do the work…

I think that because our central office is so lean, you wish you had a few more people, so that there would be natural kind of number twos in every department. We just don’t have number twos in most departments. … But, not withstanding (the leanness), that (transition plans) ... are gonna be baked in all my reports of direct evaluation: What is your succession plan? If you leave tomorrow, who’s gonna be able to step in? And, if you don’t have somebody, then the expectation is that people would be developed along those lines.

KAA: Who handles human resources for you?

Supt. Hopson: Trinette Small is my Chief of Human (Resources). …She’s actually been there for … at least two and a half, three years now. … I don’t want to say main job, but (a) very important function is recruiting teachers.

We’ve got 6,000 teachers every year; we hire about 1,500 teachers. That is a huge bulk of resources (devoted to) recruiting and hiring teachers, supporting teachers, evaluating teachers and things of that nature. … We’ve got to also be just as strategic and thoughtful around all staff and positions.

KAA: If a teacher is moved out of a school, … they have to compete or go find another job, right? Did that use to be handled in house, through the human resources (department)? And if so, why did it change?

Supt. Hopson: Here’s what used to happen: … Central office would just say, “You’re going out to this school; this is where you’re gonna go.” (The) statute changed … right around the merger time (of Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools). And, there’s a new statute that calls for … mutual consent. In other words, a teacher has to want to be there and the principal has to want them there. You can’t force place anybody. …

I think at the end of the day, it’s probably a good concept, because if a principal’s gonna be responsible for results, they should be given … the autonomy and flexibility to be able to hire their staff. The challenging part (is that) over the past few years we’ve always been trying to juggle all these budgetary issues. … If you’re gonna lose enrollment over the next year, teachers may get laid off and then they have to go through the period of trying to find another job. And I know that created a lot of angst not knowing if you’re … gonna have a job, going on all these different interviews.