MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Monday, Memphis-Shelby County Schools began its 155th year; a fresh start with new goals.
Deputy Superintendents Dr. Angela Whitelaw and Dr. John Barker said expectations haven't changed, even with an uncertain future for the district's top leader.
Both are co-leading the district while Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray is on paid leave during an outside investigation into whether he violated district policy.
"This is the first day of the best school year ever," Dr. Barker said.
The district looks to carry over and expand on some test score improvements made last year.
"We've always been a tight team behind the scenes, meaning that we are always talking about the next man up," Dr. Whitelaw said. "We've added some extra responsibilities, but I think the beginning of the year is always a pressing time for us because we want to make things right for students and families."
The district's co-leaders said by the year 2030, they want to get 70% of MSCS performing math at grade level and 74% reading at grade level.
"We believe that literacy is the backbone for our district. We believe that it's a jumping off to all of our subjects," Dr. Whitelaw added. "We do know that we have moved our students. Are we satisfied? No. Are we encouraged? Yes."
Dr. Whitelaw said this year, the district is also focusing on more two-teacher kindergarten to second grade classrooms, an enhanced Algebra 1 curriculum, and an academic support class in every high school.
"We are really focusing on students who are struggling and making sure that we put them in the front and that we work with them in small groups," Dr. Whitelaw said.
As of Monday, MSCS reported around 140 teacher vacancies. Until those slots are filled, classrooms will be covered by either certified teachers from the central office or certified substitutes.