“Considerate, fun, open-minded”: MSCS students weigh in on search for next superintendent

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the search for a new superintendent continues, Memphis-Shelby County Schools students got to share their voices Tuesday with school board members.

They described what characteristics they hope their next superintendent will have. It was the first of five community meetings ahead of the district’s nationwide search for a new leader, and students didn’t hold back their opinions.

“First thing is integrity,” said one student. “We want to have someone who’s going to do the right thing, even if we’re not looking. Someone who’s trustworthy with our staff and students and we can leave him or her around people alone.”

Three dozen high schoolers in the MSCS student congress created a word bubble to describe what they expect from the district’s next superintendent.

“Considerate, fun, open-minded, communication, mentally strong,” said Gilberto Arrollo, a student at Overton High School. “They should be academically strong, but I feel like it’s also important to be mentally strong, because once you take over a big school district like this, it does take a toll on you and your mental health.”

“Academics is a huge aspect of our school because we actually graduate high school with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree,’ said Hannah Sweezer, a student at Medical District High School. “I appreciate that and I hope that our future superintendent continues that program.”

While some students highlighted programs they hope will continue under new leadership, others brought up issues they’d like fixed, such as providing more qualified teachers.

“We do have a lot of great teachers in Memphis,” said Taylor Henderson, a student at Middle College High School. “But, there have been plenty of times when we’ve been in the middle of the school year and we lose a teacher and we have to go online or have to use a teacher at a different school and use Microsoft Teams. I know specifically at my school that’s a huge problem and with specialty classes - yeah that’s cool to have - but it’s hard to manage when you don’t have a teacher who’s there and present.”

MORE: MSCS to host community meetings in search for new superintendent

One student suggested the district spend money from the nationwide superintendent search on funding better resources instead and allow the current interim superintendent to take over full-time.

“That was very shocking,” said Althea Greene, MSCS School Board Chair. “I was a little caught off guard but it also made me aware that the last 90 days our students have been paying attention to our superintendent. She has been having conversations with our students, she has been in the community. I think it’s important that we hear from students. It was informative, inspiring, and encouraging.

In addition to these students’ opinions, Greene says all students will get to have input in a district-wide survey later this month.

And, parents and other community members will get a chance to share their thoughts in the remaining four meetings.