The Evolution of the Plan

A Plan in Progress

The following components were presented, recommended or approved as the plan evolved:

Transition Plan Strongly Supported by Tennessee State Commissioner of Education

(JULY 18, 2012)

Today, the Transition Planning Commission (TPC) is pleased to announce Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s strong endorsement of the transition plan for the merger of the Memphis City School and Shelby County School systems. Click here to view the full press release and formal letter from the Commissioner.

Commission Presents Plan to Shelby County Board of Education


The TPC presented the transition plan to the Shelby County Board of Education for approval. Click here to view the presentation.

TPC Votes to Approve Financial Projections for the Merged District

(APPROVED MAY 31, 2012)

Continuing its work to create a plan to guide the merger between Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools, the Transition Planning Commission (TPC) voted to approve financial projections for the merged district Thursday, May 31.  

The purpose of this vote was twofold – to affirm the financial projections for the merged district and to align on a plan to close the projected remaining fiscal gap in an effort to balance the overall budget for the merged district.   The TPC unanimously approved the financial projections which reduced a starting gap of $160M, much of which is non-merger related, through a series of specific initiatives to a remaining gap of $67M. The TPC-identified initiatives included significant efficiencies in logistics and personnel, and modest strategic investments in educational and organizational priorities.  

The TPC then unanimously recommended the merged district pursue $29M of funding contingent on other entities' actions to help address the projected deficit. These potential sources of funds include the City of Memphis repayment for the 2009 maintenance of effort judgment and receiving a contribution from the City in support of the educational priorities established in the Transition Plan.   

The TPC then discussed several difficult options tied to how to close the remaining gap, be it primarily through district cuts, through revenue increases, or a combination of both. The group discussed potential gap-filing cost reductions of up to $54M would involve increased class sizes, fewer school-level staff, and reductions in the central office greater than those already recommended.    Commissioners voted Thursday to pursue the identified incremental cost reductions as a reluctant contingency plan should the plan not be funded through additional revenues. The Commissioners emphasized that these reductions, which go beyond its recommended efficiencies, would not meet the TPC's world-class aspirations.   

"These are difficult decisions that will have an impact on the future of Shelby County and our students," said Barbara Prescott, TPC Chair.  

"One of our guiding principles is to save where we can to fund what we need. This will be an ongoing process, but for now, the TPC has done the best that we can to recommend some critical investments in children as well as identify items that can provide significant savings."   One additional recommendation shared with the TPC Thursday includes the creation of a district-led, cross-functional working committee put in place to create the specific plan to address the incremental deficit. This committee's work would build off of the TPC's recommendations and the most up-to-date financial projections at the time. The specific gap closure plan created would be an input into the 2014 fiscal year budget preparation process beginning in the fall of 2012. Once established, the cross-functional, working committee could also provide guidance on additional initiatives or cuts that will be required to close the larger 2015 and 2016 fiscal year gaps during those respective budget cycles.  This working committee is recommended to consist of representatives from groups including the districts, the county and the business community.

TPC Hears Recommendations on Safety and Security, Staffing and Benefits, and the Financial Picture for the Merged District

(APPROVED MAY 23, 2012)

Logistics committee recommendations on safety and security; and Human Resources committee recommendations on central office staffing, school staffing, and benefits were presented to the full Transition Planning Commission (TPC) Thursday, May 24.   Additionally, the Finance committee shared a financial overview of the merged district including expected revenues, required investments and cost saving initiatives. Some of the most significant investments included in the Finance committee report were in the areas of educational services and personnel.  


Logistics committee recommendations include a blended model with both security guards and law enforcement in schools. The committee, tasked with providing recommendations for operational functions, also recommends that the district continue operating security technology in-house and deepening safety programming, which was a recommendation of the Educational Services committee.  


The TPC’s Finance committee presented several key components of the financial projection, including an integrated financial picture for the 2014 fiscal year and an overview of actions required for the district to manage its costs as overall district enrollment declines and students shift to charter and Achievement School District schools.   The committee's fiscal projections highlighted that the starting gap to close, to balance the 2014 fiscal year budget, was $240M of which a large share ($134M) was driven by non-merger related expected revenue declines and expenditure increases. The merger is expected to drive a further $90M budgetary decline primarily due to the lack of City of Memphis annual maintenance of effort contribution of $68M to the school district.    The TPC committees have identified more than $155M in efficiencies, primarily in operations and personnel, which not only contribute to closing a large portion of this gap but also support investments in educational priorities for the merged district which are expected to cover the expansion of Pre-Kindergarten, college preparation and Advanced Placement courses. These investments are directly connected to the strategies of the Educational Services committee.   In Thursday’s meeting, the Finance committee highlighted that there is still an $89M gap to close. They will be working with the TPC over the next few weeks to provide guidance on how to address this remaining fiscal gap.   


The Human Resources committee presented recommendations on central office staffing, school staffing, Norris-Todd requirements and health insurance benefits. The TPC endorsed the Human Resources committee’s recommendations in these four areas on Thursday.   In addition to its work developing recommendations (with the Educational Services committee) for effective teachers and effective instructional leaders, the Human Resources committee was tasked with estimating staffing levels needed for the new organization, as well as upholding the requirements of Norris-Todd  

TPC Votes to Approve Major Education and Administration Recommendations for the Merged District

(APPROVED MAY 17, 2012)

The Transition Planning Commission (TPC) voted to approve the education plan and administrative structure for the merged district Thursday.

The three core groups behind the recommendations – the Educational Services committee, Human Resources & Personnel committee, and the Administrative Organization & Governance committee – were tasked with defining policies, programs and other actions to support the already-approved educational priorities and developing recommendations for the administrative structure of the merged district. Each group has spent a considerable amount of time analyzing various models and researching the two districts' current approaches and best practices in an effort to cultivate a world-class educational system.

The TPC voted to approve an education plan that addresses school readiness, effective teachers and instructional leaders, interventions and supports to meet students' needs, and a culture and climate of high expectations.

The education plan for the merged district, which reaches across 10 priority areas originally defined by the TPC in February, begins with school readiness and culminates with students prepared for success in college and career.

“Within the recommendations is an aligned set of milestones taking a student through the entire path, from start to finish,” said Daniel Kiel, University of Memphis law professor and co-chair of the Educational Services committee.

One of the most transformative recommendations is expanding Pre-Kindergarten to provide an additional 2,000 – 3,000 slots across the county, ensuring universal voluntary access for all four-year-olds. Other recommendations center around doubling the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses, increasing the number of counselors available to guide students to college and career, and keeping parents engaged. The recommendations also introduce eight key benchmarks for college readiness and success, encourage creating reciprocal accountability, expand opportunities for professional development, and promote "mutual consent" in teacher placement, where teachers and principals choose to work together.

The TPC voted to approve the administrative organization and governance recommendations including the Multiple Achievement Paths structure, a new model that empowers principals, parents and teachers – the experts on a particular school – to innovate for success.

The Administrative Organization and Governance group was charged with developing recommendations for the organizational structure, central office design, school autonomies and responsibilities, student assignment policies, and schools footprint for the district.

The committee recommended the Multiple Achievement Paths model – a prototype built upon best and promising practices from the current districts and elsewhere, and tailored to the unique needs and context of Shelby County. The goal of this structure is that each school, regardless of its status or location, has the support and autonomy that best enable it to deliver on the District's educational priorities. The committee also approved recommendations for the central office design and the student assignment policies. Within student assignment, the committee approved recommendations to maintain current student attendance zones, and to enable district-wide transfers on a space-available basis.

TPC Educational Services Committee Approves Recommendations To Protect Teacher Planning Time and Create an Innovative Student Congress

(APPROVED MAY 7, 2012)

The Transition Planning Commission (TPC) Educational Services committee unanimously approved a set of recommendations covering effective teachers, effective instructional leaders, and a culture and climate of high expectations within the merged district. 

The group, tasked with defining the educational priorities for the district, has spent a considerable amount of time researching the two districts' current approach and best practices, and developing specific strategies toward the goal of creating a world-class educational system.

The approved recommendations include several improvements such as the decision to take greater local control of principal evaluations by adding in a measure to hold principals accountable for their decisions about who teaches in their schools.

The Educational Services committee also recommended the establishment of a student congress to give students an opportunity to have their voices heard by the district – a recommendation contributed by the TPC’s youth design team comprised of students from both city and county schools, private schools and varying youth organizations.

Also included in the set of recommendations was a promise to protect common planning time for all teachers and principals on a regular basis and the commitment to take steps toward reconciling the districts’ teacher evaluations, starting this summer with joint teacher working groups to develop better measures for non-tested subjects. Additionally, the committee is recommending that customer satisfaction surveys be administered in an effort to hold central administration accountable for the service levels they provide to principals and teachers.

These recommendations will not become part of the full plan until approved at a future vote by the full TPC, likely to be held in May.

TPC Hears Logistics and Educational Services Recommendations for the Merged District


The Transition Planning Commission (TPC) heard two comprehensive recommendations for the merged district Thursday night – proposals from the Educational Services and Logistics committees.

Both groups have spent months researching existing practices and trends in the city and county school districts, and identifying cost-savings opportunities as well as important educational priorities, such as Pre-K, that savings could help fund.  

Some of the more difficult cost-savings proposals included revisions to the current in-house operation management structure, and the recommendation to hire an outsourced vendor for both custodial and transportation services. In another effort to save costs, the Logistics committee recommended that the merged system move to the Shelby County School’s three-bell model.

On the Educational Services side, the recommendations included establishing a formal parent organization at every school to increase parent engagement, extending learning and fine arts programs and making Advanced Placement courses more accessible to all students.

“The commissioners are faced with tough cost saving decisions, but we are continuing our work to save where we can, to fund what we need,” said Richard Holden, Chair of the TPC’s Logistics committee.

“Our piece of this puzzle is to try to develop a plan that offers students the very best and at the same time, try to ensure that the plan aligns with the budget.”

These recommendations will not become part of the full plan until approved at a future vote by the full TPC, likely to be held in May.

Commission Subcommittee Approves Strong Recommendations for Teacher Opportunity in New District

(APPROVED MAY 2, 2012)

The Transition Planning Commission (TPC) Human Resources and Personnel committee yesterday approved a set of recommendations, which included strong advisement to support and develop teachers. The group has spent
months researching existing HR practices and trends in both local districts and best practices nationally, including teacher compensation, professional development and the measurement of teacher content knowledge.

The resulting recommendation values teachers as collaborators in district policy, offers a framework of deep and supportive professional development, and gives them a strong voice in their school assignments.

These recommendations will not become part of the full plan until approved at a future vote by the full TPC, likely to be held later this month.

Click here to view the full set of recommendations from the committee meeting.

Logistics Committee Shares Efficiency Scenarios


The Logistics committee—tasked with comprehensive research into the two systems’ operations and developing a model for optimally merging those operations—shared several efficiency scenarios at the TPC’s April 26th meeting.These scenarios are expected to deliver significant yearly savings in the merged district.

The group has spent months researching existing practices in both local districts and best practices nationally, and presented several scenarios that would deliver millions in operational efficiencies.

The presented work included an analysis of utility use, the high efficiency of maintenance programs in both districts, a strategy for delivering higher quality food from a central kitchen, and savings opportunities in purchasing.

The committee also presented a well-researched model in which closing 21 of the 90 underutilized schools would result $18 to $21 million in yearly savings that could be diverted to education programs. The specific schools would be selected by the school board, not the TPC, based on community impact and other factors.

The scenario will not become part of the full merger recommendation until approved at a future vote by the full TPC, likely to be held in May. Click here to view a summary of the recommendations.

Educational Priorities


The Educational Services Committee is tasked with defining the educational priorities for the district and developing specific strategies for each of those priority themes, based on a baseline understanding of the two districts' current approach, as well as best practices.

These priorities, proposed and then approved at the February 23 TPC meeting, begin with school readiness and culminate with students prepared for success in college and career.

The educational priorities are a key first step to the rest of the TPC plan. The Educational Services Committee will next begin to identify specific strategies that will support each of these priorities.

Want to know more? Download full presentations in the Educational Services section of the site's library.

Administrative District Structure


On March 8, the Transition Planning Commission voted to recommend a "Multiple Achievement Paths" administrative structure for the new merged school district. Two options had been presented to the Commission at an earlier meeting by the committee studying possible structures, and this blended alternative emerged as the clear choice.  

The Multiple Achievement Paths model awards custom support and autonomy—including more control over staffing, scheduling, budget and curriculum—to allow schools and groups of schools to innovate to meet the needs of their students. Some schools might apply to do this with a single-school or group charter. Some schools might apply for more autonomy within the district structure. No matter their path, all schools are held to a high performance standard.

This is an exciting development in the process. The new model can empower principals, parents, and teachers—the experts on a particular school—to innovate for success.

Highlights of the New Structure

Take a look at some of the advantages of the model.

    • All schools are held to common high performance standards
    • There are multiple paths to school-level autonomy—where more decisions are made closer to the students—including in district-operated schools
    • There is opportunity for collaboration and learning across school types
    • An Office of Innovation will provide focused attention and support to the lowest-performing schools
    • High-quality central services are available to all schools, reducing costs through scale

      In short, the performance of a school—the quality of opportunity it provides children—will be more important that its structure. The district will embrace and support multiple models—and not a "one size fits all" approach—to achieve higher achievement for all students

      Want to know more? Read the full presentation in the Administrative Organization and Governance section of the site's Library.