Here’s who will guide Marie Feagins as she takes on new superintendent role in Memphis

An adult woman wearing an all white suit stands in a classroom next to a group of young elementary students.
Memphis-Shelby County Schools Superintendent Marie Feagins visited schools after starting the job on April 1. The Council of the Great City Schools has helped assemble a team of advisers to support her transition to the role. (Image courtesy of Memphis-Shelby County Schools)

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New Memphis schools leader Marie Feagins plans to rely on a group of former and current superintendents for support during her transition to the role by working with the Council of the Great City Schools, a national coalition of big-city districts.

The council’s work in Memphis could serve as a pilot project for future educators new to the superintendency.

Speaking about the transition team Tuesday, Feagins said, “That’s who I will depend on to give some of those sharper recommendations of how we move forward, as to not impede the progress based on a learning curve that I will continue to lean into.”

Feagins, a former administrator in Detroit’s public school system, took over as Memphis-Shelby County Schools’ superintendent on April 1, and has been visiting schools and communities to build relationships in her new city. She has also pointed out expected reviews and changes to staffing, budgeting, and academic programming, specifically for students with learning disabilities.

Feagins’ 100-day plan calls for a new strategic plan for the district by September, plus an academic audit. She has also pledged to streamline the central office and continue the district’s plans to close and consolidate some schools and build new ones.

The team from the Council of the Great City Schools is expected to “complete a systems review with a focus on operations, engagement and communications, and equity and inclusion” in the coming months, MSCS said.

Michael Hinojosa, a superintendent-in-residence at the national council who has helped lead the transition team, has nearly 30 years of experience as a superintendent, most recently with Dallas Independent School District. The team was born from a congratulatory text he sent Feagins after she was appointed superintendent in February, he said.

Hinojosa supports professional development for school superintendents — many of whom, like Feagins, are new to the role — and works with coaching programs. Hinojosa said the council wants to help prepare the new leaders and keep them from “rookie mistakes.”

“It’s very important to have a good launch,” Hinojosa told Chalkbeat.

The eight-member team will be “very organized,” he said. “We’re not going to spend months studying things, because she’s got to get some things done, and she’s got to get the right things done.”

Historical context is vital, Hinojosa said, sharing advice from his own mentor: “Before you take that fence down, you better know why it was put up.”

Hinojosa said he hopes this transition team can be an example of another way the council can support new superintendents.

Also among the members are Adrienne Battle, superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools, and Carol Johnson Dean, a former Memphis superintendent who has already helped facilitate meetings for Feagins.

The broader council includes superintendents who have navigated the role from “a blue city, in a purple county, in a red state,” Hinojosa said, which will be a necessary perspective for Memphis, where city and district leaders are often at odds with the legislative proposals of the GOP-dominated General Assembly.

Feagins told reporters earlier this week she expects to follow up the team of superintendent experts by selecting a team of local community members, including students.

“There aren’t very many decisions that I’ve made in my career as an educator that didn’t include students,” Feagins said. “And so this is not for show. This is really the type of leadership style that I have.”

Laura Testino covers Memphis-Shelby County Schools for Chalkbeat Tennessee. Reach Laura at

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