Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Alexis G. Ditaway, Nithila Ramesh, Raisa Ahmed, and Deidra Shores
Ridgeway, White Station, Houston, and Cordova High School
Being a janitor is a hard job.
It is difficult to come into an area that was previously occupied by someone else, watching debris being thrown on the floor, old projects tossed to the side, and old habits built up in front of your face. A janitor is in charge of cleaning it all up. They are responsible for a mess that is predestined to them, and for making things look shiny, clean, and in order before more people come in or before the area is used.
By this criteria, meet Dorsey Hopson, the Interim Superintendent, or janitor, of the unified Shelby County School district.
Hopson, who is a graduate of the University of Memphis, previously served as general counsel for Atlanta Public Schools. In 2008, he became the general counsel for Memphis City Schools. In January, he was selected as the interim superintendent for Memphis City Schools, replacing Kriner Cash. And in March, the Shelby County Board of Education appointed Hopson as the interim Shelby County Schools superintendent following the resignation of John Aitken. Hopson came to the Teen Appeal Lionel Linder journalism camp at the University of Memphis on July 29, and had a chance to hear from some of the students who would be a part of the now unified school system.
“Every day there is something to worry about… like 20 tests in one day,” said Hopson, in an attempt to relay to the students the difficulty he faces on the job.
From uniforms to arrival and dismissal times, Hopson explained the various reasons for certain policies.
“It all happened so fast that we didn’t have the time to address uniforms…the uniform question will later be determined by the principal of each school,” he explained.
One of the biggest concerns among young people as it pertains to the changes of the unified school system was time. This year, students enrolled in the unified school system will have to arrive 30 minutes earlier and will leave only 15 minutes earlier.
Wearing a sharp suit and a smile, the new interim superintendent was thorough on the questioning of times, saying that scheduling bus timings and routes was the decisive factor in changing school timings.
“We have to keep our busing harmonized because it is much more organized and easier to manage. It also saves money.”
Still some students mentioned that the new timing caused more problems than solutions.
“My mom leaves for work at 8:00 a.m. and since I now have to leave around 7:00 a.m., my brother has no way to get to school,” said student Kerrion Te’rae Hayes, who attends Melrose High School. “Of course, there will be gaps,” the administrator said upon hearing Hayes’ story.
The interview then quickly switched to the topic of municipal school districts.
“…SCS didn’t get to vote when MCS voted to surrender their charter so I understand the resentment and lack of trust,” Hopson said.
When asked about the initial impact of municipal schools, Hopson then discussed their potential of becoming a reality.
One question raised by a student reporter was if he approved of former superintendent Kriner Cash’s actions, and if he deemed changes were necessary.
After a pause, the superintendent relayed his thoughts.
“There were good changes,” he said. “Cash was a big reformer, who wanted to improve the quality of education…”
Hopson explained his goals for the new unified school district, and how it would differ from the previous one. He stressed the need for communication, not only with other administrators, but the students as well.
“I want to build better relationships,” Hopson said. “I want to communicate with the public and our youth. I hope I see more youth in future forums.”