City Reporter 

City Reporter

Math Homework

With teachers making $40,000, how much of the city schools budget is going to the classroom?

By Mary Cashiola

Last week during budget cuts, Memphis City Schools board commissioner Hubon "Dutch" Sandridge said that with 86 percent of the budget going to personnel, it was time to deal with management.

The board was struggling with cutting more than $11 million from the budget to balance it at $731,341,000 for the 2002-03 fiscal year. So how much do the district's top administrators and managers make?

The system's communications office said it would take an extended amount of time to find the exact figures for each of the higher-level administrators but pointed the Flyer to the district's Web site (Memphis-Schools.K12.tn.us/index-a.html) for a good indication.

The beginning salary for an executive director within the city schools system is $3,971 biweekly or about $103,000 a year. The top salary for that same job is almost $113,000 a year. Although it's unclear, because of the person's experience and background, precisely how much each executive director makes, the combined salaries of the superintendent, the associate superintendents, and the executive staff come to at least $957,000.

The Web site does not give detailed salary information for each division coordinator and director but does give their average salaries. According to the site, a division coordinator earns an average of $75,495 a year. A division director makes $94,413. According to the communications department, the district employs 18 division directors and 42 division coordinators. Using the average salaries for those positions, that's $3.1 million yearly for coordinators and about $1.7 million for directors.

The grand total: about $5.75 million in salaries for 70 people.

On the classroom side of the budget, the district had 6,850 teachers according to the 2001 state report card. At an average salary of $42,565, that means roughly $291.6 million, or about 40 percent of the balanced budget, will be paid to teachers.

During the 2001 school year, the district had 405 administrators. Average salaries for principals range from $67,794 at the elementary school level to $81,664 at the high school level. Assistant principals are paid between $58,000 and $60,000 on average.

The entire district has about 16,300 employees.

Superintendent Johnnie B. Watson is expected to bring another revised budget before the board at next week's meeting. He wanted to wait until after a commissioned study to cut administrative personnel, but board commissioners are asking that he do so this year.


Helping the Homeless

New plan hopes to break the cycle.

By Bianca Phillips

A middle-aged homeless man in a tattered black T-shirt sleeps in a wheelchair in front of St. Peter's Catholic Church downtown. The sun is shining on the long black hair that's hanging over his face, hiding most of his features. He's surrounded by ragged suitcases and duffel bags of various colors stuffed to overflowing with all of his belongings.

But he may not have to sleep outside for long. Last week, Memphis mayor Willie Herenton and Shelby County mayor Jim Rout unveiled the city's first "Blueprint to Break the Cycle of Homelessness and Prevent Future Homelessness."

"This blueprint will ensure that every man or woman that is homeless will have a place to go," said Rout as he addressed the various members of the faith-based organizations, service providers, and media representatives gathered in City Hall.

The blueprint outlines strategies for convincing homeless people to take advantage of available resources -- such as Families First and the Salvation Army's Central Assessment/Intake/Referral project -- and also includes plans to make existing services more efficient. Currently, no mechanism is available to measure the effectiveness of homeless services and housing programs or the long-term outcome of the people who have used these resources. To end this problem, the city of Memphis, Partners For the Homeless, and the Greater Memphis Interagency Coalition For the Homeless are collaborating to implement certain standards that services must meet to ensure their effectiveness.

The blueprint also lays out a plan to ensure that homeless people with drug problems and those who are mentally ill have a place to receive treatment. It also lists strategies for providing supportive housing and planning programs for these people after release from mental-health facilities and/or jail.

Finally, the blueprint points out that none of the above goals can be met without more support from area faith-based organizations, more financial help from local businesses and corporations, and improved flexibility of existing programs.

The project is the result of a year's worth of research and planning by the appointed members of the Mayor's Task Force On Homelessness, a group responsible not only for outlining these strategies but seeing to it that they're actually implemented.

The groups involved realized that the problems won't be solved overnight. "[The blueprint] doesn't tell anybody that we're going to leap from tall buildings in a single bound. We think it's very realistic and manageable," said Pat Morgan, executive director of Partners For the Homeless.


Fill 'Er Up

Developers to build new gas station downtown.

By Janel Davis

Residents of downtown, HarborTown, and Mud Island will no longer have to travel long distances for gasoline and other items once a new convenience center is completed next spring.

Uptown Place, developed by Jim Curtis of Tri-State Contractors and built by Guy Payne & Associates Architects, will offer many of the conveniences of everyday life. The mixed-use building, planned at 150 Auction Avenue between Main and Second streets, will contain a ground-floor convenience store with a BP/Amoco gasoline island and retail outlets, including food chains like Subway and a drug store. The second level will consist of 10 loft-style apartments.

"We are trying for a quality development with this project," says Curtis. "We're trying to set a standard in downtown for high-scale developments."

"The Center City Commission [CCC] is delighted to see the project, which is a larger part of the Uptown Memphis development project," says Jeff Sanford, CCC president. "This will change a dilapidated area into a vibrant, mixed-income area."

The 25,000-square-foot development is a $3 million project that Sanford describes as "more than your usual strip shopping center." The CCC's finance corporation has issued Uptown Place an 18-and-a-half-year property-tax abatement initiative.

"Many people have a misconception about tax abatements," says Sanford, referring to questions that have been raised about what are usually called freezes for developers. "Since 1979, there are only 141 active downtown abatements, and there are 6,000 total commercial projects in the district. Every project does not receive an abatement, only those projects the [CCC] knows will be completed with or without the tax freeze."

With the CCC's support, Payne says there should be no problem leasing the retail and residential spaces. Curtis says construction is scheduled to begin in early October.


Reaching Out

City launches official Spanish-language Web site.

By Bianca Phillips

The digital divide in Memphis is about to shrink as the city launches its first Web site written entirely in Spanish and plans to offer a site catering to the city's Vietnamese community.

On August 30th, the Spanish version of CityOfMemphis.org will be accessible by clicking a "Spanish" link on the site. The site will contain new information specifically targeted to the Hispanic community here, such as how to get a Social Security card, how to register children in school, even what to do if stopped by a police officer. It will also contain general information about safety and health issues, education, and immigration.

"We hope not only to narrow the gap between these citizens and the city government but to provide pertinent information pertaining to the city of Memphis," said Mayor Willie Herenton at the site's unveiling.

The site's comprehensive A-to-Z guide of city services, containing information on everything from abandoned cars to zoning-ordinance amendments, will be translated into Spanish. The site will also contain a section with answers to the questions most frequently asked by the city's immigrants.

"We are serving a different kind of Hispanic community in Memphis. They're brand-new. It's not like Chicago, where they've had a Hispanic community for a long time," said Naquenta Sims, manager of the Office of Multicultural and Religious Affairs (OMRA).

The new site has been in the works for nearly a year. It began when Kroger volunteered to set up Hispanic informational kiosks in its stores to serve as a pilot program. The program was a success, so OMRA linked Quilogy, the company contracted to design the city's English site, with a local certified Spanish translator. OMRA also hosted focus groups attended by Spanish-speaking members from various professions to determine what the Hispanic community needed from the site.

"[Hispanic] children are getting this information in schools, but the adults don't have access to it. We want to take that mystery away," said Sims.

Plans for another foreign-language site are in the works. The city hopes to launch its Vietnamese site by 2003. A pilot program will be offered sometime in September at the Kroger store at 1366 Poplar.

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