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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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Dear Top-Tier Superintendents

It looks like Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) will be restarting its search for a new district superintendent.

The process has been so convoluted that it is hard to imagine any top-tier superintendent being interested in a place with such turmoil. 

So, I thought I’d stick my nose in the process and write a letter to all top-tier superintendents, who now may be having second thoughts about applying for the position.

Dear Top-Tier Superintendents, 

You are probably aware that our school system, Memphis-Shelby County Schools, is in the process of searching for a new superintendent.

You may also be aware that there has been some degree of turmoil surrounding the search process that might make you and other top-tier candidates hesitant about tossing your hat into the ring for consideration. 

Our school board can be a little dysfunctional at times (but they mean well), which is why we need someone exceptional, like yourself, to lead our school district. 

I just want to take a moment to share with you why you should still be interested in the job despite the negativity that has overwhelmed the search process thus far.

First, Memphis is a vibrant community with a rich history in music, the arts, civil rights, and food (emphasis on food). The city is also home to a number of Fortune 500 companies and is a major center for healthcare, transportation, and logistics.

We are a city on the rise, the economy is growing, and we want our education system to be able to support the growth and future aspirations of those who live and work in our great city. 

Memphis-Shelby County Schools is the largest school district in Tennessee, more than 150,000 students enrolled, and the 25th largest school district in the United States.

But please know that the challenges that await the person chosen to lead our school system are enormous. 

Memphis-Shelby County Schools is a large and complex district that faces a number of challenges related to student achievement, equity, and socioeconomic disparities. 

The city of Memphis has a poverty rate of 24.2 percent (according to 2022 Census data) while child poverty is 32.7 percent, and we have one of the highest crime rates in the nation.

These factors have a direct impact on the educational environment in our schools.

We recognize that challenges like these can be daunting for even the most experienced superintendents.

But if you’re someone who truly wants to make a difference in the lives of young people and a community, then Memphis may be the ideal place for you to pursue your dreams. 

We are looking for someone who can stabilize our school system and move it forward, not someone who wants to use this position as a steppingstone to greater opportunities. 

We’ve had six superintendents over the last 20 years; the average duration of their stay is just over three years. 

We need someone who can create a dynamic vision for our school system and our community and is willing to stay the course until that vision is realized.  

We’re looking for someone who can inspire an organization, who can foster a positive and inclusive work culture, promote innovation, and implement effective educational strategies that benefit students and educators alike. 

We have some of the most talented teachers and administrators on the planet who are in great need of dynamic, forward-looking, stable leadership. 

Our teachers and students need someone who can lift their spirits and appreciate their accomplishments. 

If you are an individual who is passionate about educational equity and social justice, Memphis-Shelby County Schools is the place for you. 

We need someone who can effectively address these issues head-on and help make a meaningful difference in the lives of students and their families.

Oh, did I mention the fact that we compensate our superintendents extremely well in Memphis?

The salary of the Memphis-Shelby County Schools superintendent is in line with the salaries of superintendents in other large, urban school districts. 

Our last superintendent had an annual salary of almost $300,000 per year. I’m sure the salary you will receive will be comparable. 

Memphis is a city with many challenges, but it is also a community with enormous potential just waiting to be unleashed. 

You will have a chance to shape the future of education here in our great city and effect positive change on a significant scale for years to come. 

It is our hope that top-tier superintendent candidates like yourself will step forward and take the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of students, families, and an entire community. 

If you are that person, please introduce yourself to the Memphis community by applying for this incredibly challenging but immensely rewarding opportunity. We look forward to meeting you in the very near future. 

Sincerely, 

“Citizens of Memphis”

(Follow me, TSD’s education columnist, on Twitter @curtisweathers. Email me at [email protected].) 

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