Memphis-Shelby County Schools board taps Althea Greene as chair

A woman, Shelby County Schools board member Althea Greene, is in a blue outfit seated behind a table and speaks during a hearing for Veritas College Preparatory, a charter school in South Memphis.

The Memphis-Shelby County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint Althea Greene as its new chair, as the district enters a crucial period.

Greene will succeed Michelle McKissack, whose two-year term as chair is ending. McKissack was reelected to the board in August, but recently announced that she is eyeing a run for Memphis mayor in 2023.

Greene, pastor of Real Life Ministries and owner of a catering company, was appointed to the board in 2019 by the Shelby County Commission. She spent 38 years as an educator in MSCS before retiring in 2018.

Greene will face an immediate challenge: leading a search for a new superintendent after the district spent more than $400,000 to buy out the contract of its scandal-plagued former superintendent, Joris Ray. 

The superintendent search is set to begin next month.

The board leadership transition also comes at a time when Memphis students, like others across the nation, are grappling with pandemic learning losses, as well as the violence plaguing the city and the trauma that comes with that.

“That’s not the culture and climate we want for our students,” Greene told Chalkbeat on Sept. 8, after four people were killed and three injured during a teenager’s shooting rampage on the day before.

Ezekiel Kelly, 19, has been charged in connection with the slayings. The shooting spree, Greene said, was all that students were talking about at the schools she visited that day.

“We’re going to have to work together as elected officials to change that, and to make sure that we put the correct laws and the correct policies in place,” she said.

The board also voted unanimously to tap fellow board member Sheleah Harris as its new vice chair. Harris, also a former educator, is the founder of Living Grace, a nonprofit that serves homeless youth in Memphis.

The Latest

I used to be skeptical of affinity groups. Now, I’m the president of my high school’s Asian Student Association.

Chalkbeat followed students and their parents through the high school application process in Chicago.

Katy Anthes will lead a book study and offer private and small group coaching to help school district leaders and others tamp down heated rhetoric.

Researchers think there is potential for artificial intelligence to aid in identifying students who might have previously gone unrecognized.

The Illinois Workforce and Education Research Collaborative’s recent report found that 14% of students took at least one dual credit course in the 2021-22 school year.

In his first two years, New York City schools Chancellor David Banks has made literacy his focal point. Will budget cuts threaten his progress?