“We’re ready for history,” interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson said this afternoon of Monday’s start of the school year.
But don’t look for him or his cabinet to go home for the weekend on a Friday afternoon.
Hopson himself continues to sweat the details of the new bus routes that came with the three bell times for starting school with the new school year.
He described it as “the thing that keeps me up at night.”
There are 470 different routes serving 48,000 students with a bus fleet that is a mix of buses the school system owns and buses run by a contractor the school system is working with.
It’s a hybrid arrangement that allows the school system to keep a fleet that it might use to become a contractor itself in providing transportation services to the suburban school districts to come as well as charter schools and similar paying customers.
Deputy superintendent David Stephens said his experience as a principal is that he was usually at the school until 11 p.m. the Sunday before the first day of school.
And while the leadership of the consolidated school system has repeatedly acknowledged parental concerns about some of the changes outside the classroom with the merger, Hopson and Stephens at the Friday press conference began to push back a bit.
There are always what they described as “glitches” on the first day of classes.
“This year there will be a microscope on it,” Hopson added.
That includes some moves on the last working day before the start of the school year including the school system’s decision to lay off 15 counselors. Hopson said he kept them on the payroll as long as he could, hoping there might be some last minute funding that would allow the school system to keep them or positions that might open up for them with retirements or counselors resigning. But that didn’t happen.
However, some of those counselors got paid in advance via direct deposit when the schools administration changed what had been a switch to the old Memphis City Schools policy of paying all teachers and staff for work done instead of in advance of the time they actually work.
So in switching back, the counselors who already got paid for the work they were to do will only be paid for a week of the two weeks’ paycheck they got. The other week’s pay will be taken back via direct deposit, Hopson said.
Hopson estimated the problem came up for eight or nine employees and they don’t have to write the school system a check or come up with the cash in hand.
A group of “less than 100 teachers” remain who were excessed and don’t yet have new school assignments.
Hopson announced Friday he is using those certified teachers as substitute teachers starting Monday until their permanent status is worked out one way or another.
The arrangement is part of what Hopson says will be a flexible approach to issues that come up with Monday’s opening. The school system may make changes on some of those issues and others it may not be able to.
We’ll talk a bit more about what comes after the opening in a piece in Monday’s paper that goes up on line Sunday afternoon. In general, it does not involve anyone in a leadership role in the school system taking some time off or easing up a bit after months of marathon office hours stretching into the predawn hours.
And here is our piece from Friday’s edition that is part of our ongoing coverage of the merger that all began nearly three years ago in late 2010 when this was first mentioned as a possibility among Memphis school board members at a reception for Bill and Melinda Gates at the National Civil Rights Museum. It has been a wild ride with twists and turns no novelist could have dreamed up. And there is more to come.