Expansion of High School Trade Schools (Vo-Tech) – Is it the Golden Arrow for Shelby County?

I have been giving this a lot of though lately after I have heard from so many in our community about education and what its real goal should be.

After thinking about it, it seems to me that political definitions of education like those used by the president and secretary of education do the most to set children up for failure. Not every child is going to go to college, but every adult has to eat, sleep, breathe, etc.. With that said, I believe the statement “every child college and career bound while well-intentioned, does not go far enough. I would say that the goal would be:

“Every adult who leaves our schools has a marketable skill to make a livable wage or is prepared go to college”.

Seems really simplistic when you look at it but it has some distinct differences for every child college or career ready. I think that their has been significant focus on college but as a population make-up, we need significant focus on skills. Most of our children cannot afford and will not go to college, but they still must making a livable wage or we have no chance to overcome any poverty condition.

So what is a possible answer? Creation of Regional Trade Schools

A trade school would be a high school that had its basic common core requirements but would provide a multitude of technical vocational career paths for any child who chooses to take a career path. We would strategically locate these schools in different regions of the county as part of our portfolio district. Mainly by converting underutilized high schools into trade schools managed by an appropriate appointed board.

In coordination with many of our high performing academic high schools all over the county, these schools would provide a choice that many of our students in every municipality may be interested in, including children in the ASD.

Lot’s of discussion and planning around this. But on its face it could have significant implications on the future tax base and business recruitment value proposition to the Memphis area. I plan to discuss at our retrat.



Dorsey Hopson – Superintendent for Time Such as This

Yesterday, the new 7 member board made Dorsey Hopson the permanent superintendent for the SCS. Now, everyone has an opinion on this action and an opinion on Dorsey so I am going to speak from the heart. So let’s start with the facts:

  • Our board authorized the chairman to negotiate a contract with Dorsey and make him permanent. The length of contract is still TBD and amount is TBD.

Why did we do it?

There is virtually no educator interested in running a 1.2 billion, 150,000 student school district that is virtually assured of being broken apart over the next several years. The departure of the muni- districts along with the explosion in charter schools will leave nothing but a business organization providing services.

That is why we could get no takers during the search. That is why we don’t expect we will get any takers during the next couple of years.

Dorsey is the only one that said “I will do it”.  So before everyone bashes him for lack of experience in education. Let’s look at the expected outcome of employment:

  • You work 24 hours a day/ vacation really does not exist (John Aitken referenced this often)
  • The media watches and reports your every move/you have no private life
  • No one is ever happy
  • Every decision you make is challenged and rebuked. You are consistently the face on the dart board for every complaint in the district.
  • The rules of the game are changed everyday. The definition of success always changes. And you can be assured of actual or perceived failure every day.
  • A constant barrage if union organizations constantly pushing forward their own agendas and undermining each other and the superintendent.

Dorsey is a good guy. Good skill set. He is not perfect. He is vested in our community. And by the way, he really likes being an attorney. He wants to be an attorney. But we are asking him to hold the district together the best he can while it is being broken apart.. Interestingly enough, 270K did not even draw well qualified candidate from the education ranks.  That leads me to believe that no one who is credible believes the pay is worth it.

Well, except one guy…