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Chris Barbic has led the Tennessee Achievement School District since 2011.

Chris Barbic has led the Tennessee Achievement School District since 2011.

ASD will reach out to priority schools earlier, Barbic says

The Achievement School District and Shelby County Schools will ramp up communication with priority schools in the spring, much earlier than in past years, Chris Barbic, the superintendent of the ASD said today.

The priority list encompasses schools in the bottom 5 percent of the state, according to test scores. The ASD can assume control of any school on the list.

The idea came out of a meeting Thursday with Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson, the first in a series during which the district chiefs will formulate a three-year plan for the turnaround of Memphis’s lowest performing schools.

Barbic said that they are still in early stages of planning, but that community engagement is a top priority. He said officials from the ASD will visit schools on the priority list that are not already in the ASD or part of Shelby County’s innovation zone, and make them aware of the possibility of state intervention.

“We want to give them plenty of advance notice,” Barbic said.A three-year plan crafted by Hopson and Barbic could have long-term implications for how turnaround efforts in Memphis will look going forward.

While the ASD’s ability to intervene inschools academically ranked in the bottom 5 percent of schools is protected by state law, the two districts have until now benefitted from a cordial relationship.

Despite some recent sniping, a strong relationship going forward would be in their mutual best interest. Neither district has met its lofty academic goals and both have struggled with parental support and trust. Strong relationships with families are key to recruiting and retaining students and the tax dollars that come with them.

That’s vitally important to Shelby County Schools, which lost more than 32,000 students this past summer when six municipalities split from the district to create their own school systems. The loss of students meant the district had to cut $240 million worth of services andclose 10 schools to consolidate resources. Hundreds of teachers were laid off. Going forward, each school Shelby County loses to the ASD will further incrementally erode its financial viability.

The discussions will affect only how the ASD operates in Memphis, Barbic said. Talks about longer term plans in Nashville will start once the district gets a new director of schools this summer.

Hopson did not respond to phone messages Thursday.

For more information on the ASD’s intervention process, visit our interactive page here.

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