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Shelby County Schools budget process continues, board retreat on Thursday

SCS Supt. Dorsey Hopson II talks with world language teachers after Thursday night's community budget forum at Whitehaven High School,
SCS Supt. Dorsey Hopson II talks with world language teachers after Thursday night's community budget forum at Whitehaven High School,
Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said now that the community has given its feedback on the 2014-15 budget, the district will review public requests and make appropriate adjustments.

Board members briefly discussed the budget during Tuesday night’s monthly meeting, but did not vote on it.

Hopson and board members will have a retreat beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday and the budget will be among the topics discussed.

Last week, teachers and parents spoke during the community budget forums against the reduction of positions in the district’s world language program in elementary and middle schools and advocated for later start times for students.

Hopson said he wants to look at the district’s world language program.

“I want to know how effective the teachers have been, look at the achievement data and assess its value and what it adds (to the district),” Hopson said.

The district’s proposed budget includes reducing the number of world language teachers by half. Hopson said the district has 46 world language teachers.

Hopson said parents made “legitimate” arguments for later start times.

“If we push the start times back, we’ll have to consider the cost,” he said. “We’re looking at either the expense of adding buses and considering what a 4:30 p.m. dismissal would mean for everyone involved.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tweeted about the issue of later start times on Tuesday evening.

“Would love to see more districts consider later starting times, particularly for high school students.” Duncan also linked to a U.S. News and World Report story on the issue.

Shelby County Schools’ budget also includes 40 fewer pre-kindergarten classrooms because of the loss of federal Race to the Top money.

Hopson said replacing the pre-kindergarten classrooms is going to be tough.

“I want to put the classes back, but we’re looking at $4 million,” he said.

Although some people in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting expected the board to approve the proposed budget, Hopson said the district is ahead of schedule.

“We’re so far ahead of where we were last year (with the budgeting process),” Hopson said during the meeting. “We’re going to see if we can come up with solutions and fully vet the issues before we have our final budget.”

Hopson said he plans to ask the board to hold a special-called meeting on the budget before the April work session.

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