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Memphis school board earns national award for urban ed oversight

Several Shelby County school board members join with Superintendent Dorsey Hopson (far left) during a 2016 visit from then-U.S. Secretary of Education John King (second from right).
Several Shelby County school board members join with Superintendent Dorsey Hopson (far left) during a 2016 visit from then-U.S. Secretary of Education John King (second from right).
Laura Faith Kebede

The school board for Tennessee’s largest district has received a national award for its oversight of public education for schoolchildren in Memphis.

Shelby County Schools was singled out for excellence as an urban school board by the National School Boards Association’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, or CUBE. It joined Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh Public Schools and Texas’ Lancaster Independent School District for the 2017 honors.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and several board members accepted the award last week during the council’s annual conference in New Orleans.

The award was created in 2004 to recognize effective governance of urban school districts to impact student achievement.

Shelby County’s board has provided oversight to Memphis schools during a period of unprecedented upheaval, including the historic 2013 merger of city and county schools and the subsequent exodus of six suburban towns that created their own school systems. In that widening school-choice climate, which also includes annual expansion of the state-run turnaround district since 2012, Memphis school leaders have sought to spearhead academic growth while also stemming enrollment losses.

In honoring Shelby County Schools, the council cited the board’s introduction of monthly performance reports during public meetings to monitor the district’s effectiveness, as well as new literacy initiatives and expanded community engagement efforts. The nine-member board has remained the same since the 2014 elections.

The district will receive $2,500 toward advancing its goals and will be featured in an upcoming issue of the American School Board Journal.

Shelby County Schools is the second Tennessee district to receive the award in the last four years. The board for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools was honored with a 2014 CUBE award.

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