District Administration February 2018 - 38

LEADING

from the START
attend an academy in a building separate
from the middle and high schools.
Part of the reason was capacity-Stephens and the school board wanted to
maintain one high school so as not to
divide community support between
two buildings. The academy approach
has improved attendance and behavior
because ninth-graders are not at the bottom of the pecking order-they get to
take on various student leadership roles
that might be unavailable to them in a
high school, Stephens says.
Coping with anxiety and assessments
Like many superintendents, Stephens has
seen an increase in anxiety among his students. While the digital age has brought
great advancements in teaching and learning, it also exposes students to far more
information than they may be able to
process. "At a state meeting, when they
asked what's one thing schools need more
of, somebody said 'social workers' to help
connect families with services," he says.
"We see more kids coming with issues and
problems, and if some of their basic needs
aren't taken care of, how in the world are
they going to succeed academically?"
High-stakes assessments are another
source of stress-and not just for students. While superintendents can try to
reduce pressure on their educators, districts will still be held accountable, Stephens says. Teacher evaluations are already
tied to student outcomes, and Tennessee
will introduce an A-to-F school-grading
system that will assess metrics such as AP
enrollment and the number of students
earning college credits.
"When you try to distill a year's experience into two or three days of testing
and give a school a grade, there's so many
things a test doesn't tell us," he says. "Some
kids, if we knew their home situations,
they're performing at an incredible rate."
A more sensible system would give
schools separate grades for different areas,
such as academic performance and atten38 February 2018

dance, he says. "We keep adding more
and more regulations," he says. "We keep
adding reform on top of reform so you
never know if any of it is getting traction.
First, we have to build confidence in people that what we're measuring is the right
thing and it's being done with fidelity."
"Like a new business"
The merger and subsequent breakaways
represent only the latest tectonic shift
in education in Memphis and Shelby
County. That Superintendent David Stephens played a key role represents a bit
of family coincidence-his father, who
was director of research and planning for
Memphis city schools-wrote the district's desegregation plan in the 1960s.
Stephens started his career as a science
teacher, but also nurtured lofty career
goals that didn't always center on academics. "I thought I was going to be the next
big-time high school or college basketball coach," he says. "I found out that I
enjoyed teaching more than coaching."
After becoming a high school principal and later an administrator in Memphis, he found himself helping move a
120,000-student urban district into a
county system that was less than half that
size. The project involved two superintendents, 23 school board members and separate systems for transportation, payroll,
food service and student management,
among countless other functions that had
to be reorganized. "What I tell people is
that it's pretty easy to take these kinds of
systems and put them together," says Stephens, who, as chief of staff for the Shelby
County superintendent, served on the
Transition Steering Committee. "But the
districts had two cultures, and it would
have worked better if we had spent more
time getting the people together."
That was one among many key lessons
that guided Stephens, when, shortly after
the merger, the citizens of Bartlett and the
other suburbs approved a sales tax increase
to form their own districts by taking over

Superintendent
David Stephens'
Favorite Things:
Teacher: Hank Gill, 11th-grade
American history
Childhood aspiration:
Coaching major college basketball
Pastime/Hobby: Travel with my
family and playing golf with my kids
Sports: University of Memphis
football/basketball and Memphis
Grizzlies basketball
Travel destination:
Navarre Beach, Florida
Food: Steak
Dessert: Anything chocolate
Books: Anything written by Tom
Clancy or John Grisham
Music: All the great Memphis artists
Twitter: @BCSSup
Heroes: My Dad
Quote: Any of the lines from the
poem "If," by Rudyard Kipling

the former Shelby County schools in their
communities. Stephens kept every principal and administrator and 98 percent
of the teachers who had worked for the
county. Stephens knew from his experience
with the merger that he and his staff then
had to ensure that payroll, food service,
bus routes and PD were ready on opening
day. "We didn't just open a district and get
it up and running. We were able to get it
up and running, and excel," he says.
"It's like a new business-if at end of
first year, the lights are still on, you feel like
you've done well. We opened a business
and had a line going out the door of people
wanting to eat here." DA
Matt Zalaznick is senior associate editor.
District Administration



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration February 2018

District Administration February 2018 - Intro
District Administration February 2018 - Cover1
District Administration February 2018 - Cover2
District Administration February 2018 - 1
District Administration February 2018 - 2
District Administration February 2018 - 3
District Administration February 2018 - 4
District Administration February 2018 - 5
District Administration February 2018 - 6
District Administration February 2018 - 7
District Administration February 2018 - 8
District Administration February 2018 - 9
District Administration February 2018 - 10
District Administration February 2018 - 11
District Administration February 2018 - 12
District Administration February 2018 - 13
District Administration February 2018 - 14
District Administration February 2018 - 15
District Administration February 2018 - 16
District Administration February 2018 - 17
District Administration February 2018 - 18
District Administration February 2018 - 19
District Administration February 2018 - 20
District Administration February 2018 - 21
District Administration February 2018 - 22
District Administration February 2018 - 23
District Administration February 2018 - 24
District Administration February 2018 - 25
District Administration February 2018 - 26
District Administration February 2018 - 27
District Administration February 2018 - 28
District Administration February 2018 - 29
District Administration February 2018 - 30
District Administration February 2018 - 31
District Administration February 2018 - 32
District Administration February 2018 - 33
District Administration February 2018 - 34
District Administration February 2018 - 35
District Administration February 2018 - 36
District Administration February 2018 - 37
District Administration February 2018 - 38
District Administration February 2018 - 39
District Administration February 2018 - 40
District Administration February 2018 - 41
District Administration February 2018 - 42
District Administration February 2018 - 43
District Administration February 2018 - 44
District Administration February 2018 - 45
District Administration February 2018 - 46
District Administration February 2018 - 47
District Administration February 2018 - 48
District Administration February 2018 - 49
District Administration February 2018 - 50
District Administration February 2018 - 51
District Administration February 2018 - 52
District Administration February 2018 - 53
District Administration February 2018 - 54
District Administration February 2018 - 55
District Administration February 2018 - 56
District Administration February 2018 - 57
District Administration February 2018 - 58
District Administration February 2018 - 59
District Administration February 2018 - 60
District Administration February 2018 - Cover3
District Administration February 2018 - Cover4
District Administration February 2018 - 66
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