Rise & Shine: Six Memphis schools soon to join Empowerment Zone

Good morning!

Memphis is home to several high-profile school turnaround initiatives like the Innovation Zone and Tennessee's Achievement School District. But today's featured story examines another approach launched two years ago by Shelby County Schools. The Empowerment Zone is a cluster of neighborhood schools that feed into Whitehaven High School. Read why Superintendent Dorsey Hopson says it's working — and why his administration plans to double its size this fall.

Also, we're thrilled to share that Chalkbeat Tennessee reporter Laura Faith Kebede is bringing home a national award for education reporting from the Education Writers Association. Laura and two of our other Chalkbeat colleagues were honored last night in Los Angeles for their series about the rising influence of the "portfolio model," a network  of organizations pushing public school districts to outsource school management — especially of low-performing schools — to charters. You can find the series here.

On to the news!

—Marta W. Aldrich, statehouse correspondent

EMPOWERMENT ZONE  Here’s a look at Shelby County Schools’ newest intervention program, a neighborhood-centric approach that will more than double in size this fall. Chalkbeat

WORK HARD, PLAY HARD  A Memphis charter school brings together local teachers from both charter and traditional schools to play basketball and network. Chalkbeat

GATES GRANTS  Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has given $44 million to influence state education policy across the nation, including in Tennessee. The Associated Press

FINAL CUT  Verna Ruffin, the chief academic officer for Tennessee’s Achievement School District, is interviewed by school board members in Lawrence, Massachusetts, as one of two finalists to lead their district. The Eagle-Tribune

HITTING PAUSE  Lakeland’s district pulls a building permit for a $3 million expansion at its elementary school in suburban Shelby County.  Memphis Daily News

BUDGET SEASON  Nashville Director Shawn Joseph proposes cutting 30 central office positions and pausing new programs to make up for a $17 million hole in the district’s budget. The Tennessean

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger wants to build two new schools and hire seven more school resource officers. Times Free Press

Greeneville City Schools will ask town officials to cover the district’s $120,000 shortfall and also to pay for new school security cameras. The Greeneville Sun

HEATING UP  A Hamilton County commissioner lashes out against UnifiEd, charging that the Chattanooga community group is using students “as a crutch for their political agenda.” The Chattanoogan, Times Free Press

SUICIDE STUDY  A researcher at Vanderbilt University says the number of school-age children hospitalized for suicide attempts or thoughts has doubled in the last decade. Nashville Public Radio

‘DEPORTATION BILL’  Chanting “sin papeles, sin miedo” — “no papers, no fear” — teachers and students are among hundreds who rally in Nashville urging Gov. Bill Haslam to veto a bill that they say would be hostile to immigrants who entered the country illegally. The Tennessean, WTVF

SCIENCE EXPLOSION  The Hendersonville Fire Department completes its investigation of last week’s school science class explosion that injured 17 Sumner County students and a teacher. The Tennessean

LEADER UNDER FIRE  Maury County’s school board votes down a motion to fire its superintendent. Columbia Daily Herald

LEADER IN ME  Students in Jackson-Madison County share what being a leader is all about. WBBJ

CIVICS LESSON  A black alumnus tells students at Maryville High School what it was like to help integrate their school 55 years ago. The Daily Times

ON THE MARCH  Thousands of North Carolina teachers rally at their state Capitol to draw attention to deteriorating buildings, fewer counselors and nurses, and salaries that lag the national average. The Wall Street Journal, NPR

BEHIND THE MOMENTUM  What’s the case for raising teacher pay? The rationale is often muddled. American Prospect