Memphis-Shelby County Schools board poised to select superintendent search firm this month

Two students work at a wooden table with word puzzles.
Board Chair Althea Greene has repeatedly emphasized her commitment to involving the community in the superintendent search process.  (Brad Vest for Chalkbeat)

The Memphis-Shelby County Schools board is poised to choose a firm by the end of the month to lead its national search for a new superintendent.

MSCS received applications from four search firms ahead of the board’s Dec. 21 deadline, Kenneth Walker, the district’s general counsel and chief legal officer, told board members during committee meetings Tuesday afternoon.

Walker said the district is now waiting for two of the applicants to provide recommendation letters. Once those are received, he said, district officials will begin reviewing the applications and will recommend one for the board to focus on.

Several board members said Tuesday that they’d like the board to vote to pick a search firm by the end of the month. Amber Huett-Garcia said the vote needs to get done this month for the board to meet its April deadline to select the next superintendent. The board’s next business meeting is scheduled for Jan. 31. 

A vote this month would align with the sped-up timeline released in December, which calls for the search firm to build a profile for the desired superintendent based on community meetings and formally launch the search in February. 

Board Chair Althea Greene said she believes a vote later this month is doable — as long as the board is able to adequately collect and analyze the feedback gathered from the remaining community input sessions, which won’t wrap up until Jan. 21.

Since the board launched the superintendent search earlier this school year, Greene has repeatedly emphasized her commitment to involving the community in the process. 

During MSCS’ last superintendent search in 2019, the board received criticism for abandoning a national search and choosing Joris Ray, a longtime district employee, for the job. Ray served for about three years, but agreed to resign in August amid an investigation of claims that he abused his power and violated district policies by engaging in adulterous affairs with employees he supervised.

Walker said Tuesday that he believed it was feasible to share the applications with the board and make a recommendation by the end of the month.

Want a chance to give feedback on the search for MSCS’ next leader? The district’s remaining public meetings are scheduled for: 

  • Thursday, Jan. 12, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Parkway Village Elementary School.
  • Thursday, Jan. 19, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at Kingsbury High School. (This meeting will be in Spanish.)
  • Saturday, Jan. 21, from noon to 2 p.m., at the district offices.

Residents can also provide feedback through an online survey. The deadline has been extended to Jan. 22.

Samantha West is a reporter for Chalkbeat Tennessee, where she covers K-12 education in Memphis. Connect with Samantha at swest@chalkbeat.org.

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