Supt. Toni Williams’ Monday morning visit to Highland Oaks Elementary School at 5252 Annandale Dr. signaled that the 2023-24 school year is underway for Memphis Shelby County Schools.
With MSCS Board members Michelle McKissack and Mauricio Calvo alongside, Williams carved out time from her first-day-of-school tour schedule to talk about new initiatives.
“Let’s start with safety,” said Williams, noting that safety is “the topic” for much of the community at this time.
“I have wonderful board members who approved a $2.2 billion budget. And so we have over $50 million in this year’s budget on safety initiatives,” said Williams. “And so what parents, students can see is heavy presence (of) safety and security officers, along with safety monitors. You’ll see fencing this year, you’ll see weapons detection. So that is a huge investment.”
In addition, said Williams, the new school year will bring “a heavy focus on academics, literacy and extended learning … and nutrition.”
Acknowledging that McKissack, former school board president, had emphasized the need to get “simple things like nutrition” right, Williams said, “you will see this year a heavy focus as well on our nutrition menu.”
McKissack, who is running for mayor, represents District One.
“I’m very excited about this year’s theme – ‘See the Future’ – because the future is so bright. We have so much that we’ve been working on to build upon for our students in terms of academic success, setting them up for success with tutoring and things of that nature.”
As for the nutrition changes, McKissack said, “Everybody’s talking about it because we had new items on our breakfast and lunch menu. My daughter’s especially excited about the chicken Alfredo. … We’re really committed to making sure that we serve our students and all of our MSCS community well.”
Calvo, who just recently joined the board after being named to fill out the vacant District 5 term, said he took advantage of having arrived early and visited reading classrooms.
“I was so excited to see many classrooms with two people in the classroom, two adults. And that is something so important, something that at the board we want to continue to push for because we know our teachers need more assistants, especially during those early grades so we can push reading,” he said.
“We wish everybody a really successful year,” he said. “Parents need to know that it’s not too late to register, even though school has started. We need them to register because we cannot deploy teachers and resources until people register.”
Aside from their formal remarks, Williams, McKissack and Calvo visited classrooms, taking time to interact with students, teachers and administrators.