Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Rare Bright Day for the Unified School System

Posted by on Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 7:22 PM

Dorsey Hopson and staff
For a day, at least, it was all sunshine.

Under a bright blue sky, Interim Superintendent "Dorsey" (Hopson) introduced Interim assistant superintendent "David" (Stephens) and the rest of the administrative staff. No formality, no bodyguards, no limos, no scowling Irving Hamer, no snark, no hostility, no guarded answers. Maybe it was the weather, or the spirit of Easter and renewal. But less than 24 hours after another five-hour school board meeting, the new leadership aired it out.

Hopson said there will be no attendance zone changes and no busing. There could be more school closings, but not until the 2014—2015 school year. The school system will try to get full payment of past debts from the city "but I don't want to be in an adversarial position with the city," Hopson said. "I hope they do the right thing and pay what they owe."

John Aitken was "great" but "the work goes on." Hopson does not plan to apply for the permanent superintendent's job, if permanent can be used in such a context.

"We've got to all be partners whether we have one district or ten districts," he said.

The picture was worth 1000 words. Both Hopson and Stephens have children in the city or county public schools. And Stephens has a good personal story. His father, O. Z. Stephens used to work for the Memphis City Schools back in the busing years. In fact, he cowrote Plan Z, the "terminal" busing plan that drove more than 30,000 students out of the system in 1973 and 1974.

David Stephens
  • David Stephens
David Stephens said his father's views of the merger have softened since two years ago when I interviewed him and he said he feared another round of white flight and busing. The slow pace, in this case, has been a good thing. David is working on his doctorate, and part of his research is interviewing his dad. They got about an hour on tape. I asked David if I could listen to it some time and he agreed. I will write more after we meet.

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