SCS hires Heidi Ramirez, former Milwaukee CAO

Heidi Ramirez, who oversaw Milwaukee Public Schools’ charter school expansion, was named as Shelby County Schools’ Chief Academic Officer, officials announced Tuesday.

Milwaukee is known for its large charter sector, schools operated by outside organizations and its widespread use of vouchers, public money used to pay for students’ private schools.

She will start Nov. 7 and make $165,000 a year.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Ramirez is currently an education consultant and has worked previously as the chief academic officer for Milwaukee Public Schools, a district of 160 schools and 78,000 students.  During her time in Milwaukee, Ramirez was responsible for the district’s portfolio of charter schools.

Prior to working in Milwaukee, Ramirez was the associate dean for the College of Education and Director for Urban Education Collaborative at Temple University.

Ramirez has not worked as a classroom teacher. Hopson’s administrative cabinet has been criticized in the community for lacking leaders with teaching backgrounds.

“Dr. Ramirez has extensive knowledge of K-12 education and urban policy, which will assist the District in our efforts to aggressively impact academic achievement,” the district’s media relations department replied to a Chalkbeat email asking about Ramirez’s teaching experience.  “She will be supported by her team of three assistant superintendents, two of whom are former SCS teachers and principals.”

Recently, Shelby County Schools board members and administrators have debated whether to turn chronically-underperforming schools over to charter operators. Tennessee’s legislature is expected to debate whether to give vouchers to students attending the state’s worst-performing schools, the vast majority of which are located in Memphis.

In 2009, Ramirez, “fighting back tears”, resigned from Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission (SRC) after she bumped heads with the district’s superintendent over her inquiries about budget and contracts, according to local media reports.

In March 2013 the Philadelphia Notebook reported Ramirez was a finalist to become the leader of Camden, New Jersey’s schools, a district of 12,000 students.  But the process ended when NJ Gov. Chris Christie announced the state would take over the district.

“My career has been about working with high-poverty, high-minority districts,” Ramirez said in the article.

With a little more than 113,000 students, Shelby County Schools chief academic officer will be tasked with helping to increase the amount of students reading on grade level and the district’s graduation rate.  This year the district has adopted an “80/90/100” goal: 80 percent of students graduating college-and-career ready, 90 precent of students graduating from high school and 100 percent of students heading to postsecondary opportunities by 2025. Meeting such goals will largely depend on administrators’ ability to recruit, retain and develop its teaching force, an initiative district leaders have referred to as making Memphis Teacher Town.

In July, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II announced Carol Johnson as the interim chief academic officer and charged her with helping the district find the a new CAO.  Johnson was scheduled to stay in the role for 60 to 90 days.

Hopson has been criticized for not having any traditional educators on his cabinet.  The last CAO, Roderick Richmond, resigned after reported differences with Hopson, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Officials would not specify how many total candidates applied and how many or which other finalists are being considered for the position.

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at and (901) 730-4013.

Follow us on Twitter: @TajuanaCheshier@chalkbeattn.

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