MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Shelby County Schools' school board is scheduled to meet Tuesday, March 29 at 5:30 p.m., with many teachers hoping to gain insight about the Fresh Start Initiative that will be enforced at three schools in the district.
Teachers at Kingsbury High, Hamilton High, and Airways Achievement Academy have been named as "Fresh Start" locations.
Under the "Fresh Start" initiative, teachers at these three schools will be forced to reapply for their jobs, as Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray continues to move forward with the district’s said goal to "ensure the best outcomes for students".
Schools identified as “Fresh Start” locations will undergo academic review, making all teaching positions available for reexamination, with the potential to welcome new teachers and educational instructors.
MSCS Media Relations representative said that all teachers who wish to return to "Fresh Start" school locations must complete a full reapplication and interview process that meets the Human Resources Department’s current application requirements, regardless of their tenure and experience.
A Media Relations representative also said that teachers who reapply “must be selected for an interview”.
“I am unapologetic about taking any and every step necessary to move our District to a Level 5, premier institution that offers a world-class education for every student,” Ray said. “We are at a pivotal point in our District, and I will continue to reinforce the goal to move from intervention to innovation.”
According to Ray, in-depth teacher evaluations are “long overdue”. In an interview with the Commercial Appeal, Ray said that changes to the academic structure of locations included in the “Fresh Start” initiative is necessary to “ensure that [he] has the right people in the right seats.”
Who does “Fresh Start “ apply to?
A representative from MSCS Media Relations team said that the “Fresh Start” initiative is not limited to teachers, but instead, functions as a full reassessment of staffing for both instructional and non-instructional positions.
The school district reevaluated several positions at the cabinet level this past summer, including job roles for executive directors of equity, of curriculum and instruction, and of professional learning, as well as the director of leadership development position and other roles.
The district also filled a chief of school’s position, one that had been vacant for years.
What MSCS said
According to the district's job board, well over 200 teacher positions have already been listed at at all three schools combined.
MSCS has provided limited insight about the “Fresh Start” initiative, declining to give in-depth answers to several questions.
When asked in-depth questions about the initiative, MSCS referred ABC24 to outdated statements that were made by Superintendent Ray in an article that was published by the Commercial Appeal in June of 2021, which was nearly a year ago.
Despite MSCS' refusal to further explain the “Fresh Start” initiative in detail, parents and teachers have several concerns.
MSCS was asked these questions:
“Are the minimum requirements for new educators who apply for available positions more or less lenient?"
“What is the consensus applied in the process of selecting a school as part of the "Fresh Start" initiative?” (More simply, what factors are present when deciding to make a school a “Fresh Start” location?)
“Are there specific qualifications that are required to be met for a school to be eligible to be removed as a "Fresh Start" location?”
“What academic support is Memphis Shelby County Schools offering to students in addition to seeking for qualified teacher/education instructors?”
Current teachers and parents look forward to possibly getting answers to their many questions after the school board meeting.
What we know
According to minimum qualifications listed in the MSCS Human Resources job post, a teacher applying to be a Calculus teacher at Kingsbury High school must have a valid Tennessee teaching certificate, a Bachelor’s degree, be “highly qualified”, and must be “physically and mentally able to perform the responsibilities and duties of the position.”
The same requirements were listed for other open teacher positions at all three schools for, including but not limited to, Geometry, Biology, English, etc.
None of the teacher positions posted on the MSCS Human Resource page detailed the pay classroom teachers who apply can expect to make, which is surprising given the fact that teachers have expressed frustrations about low pay for years.
Many of the positions listed set the application close date for 12/31/2022.
In light of the current teacher shortage, MSCS, parents, and students can only wait and see if the “Fresh Start” initiative results in the creation of a qualified, fully staffed academic administrative department at both Hamilton and Kingsbury High Schools.
MSCS said employees who are interested in working at either school must reapply through HR and complete the interview process if selected.
It is not clear what will happen for former teachers who are not rehired after they reapply.