The Shelby County School Board voted Teresa Jones, an attorney for the city of Memphis, to serve as their chair at Tuesday’s meeting. The board chair guides board discussions and often serves as its spokesperson but doesn’t have special authority.

Shelby County Schools, with more than 113,000 students, has struggled to recruit, retain and develop quality teachers and improve its student literacy rate. After six suburban municipalities formed separate school districts this past summer, Shelby County is now working to keep students who have the choice of transferring to a municipal district, a charter school or the Achievement School District, the state-run district charged with improving the state’s lowest-performing schools. The majority of those schools are clustered in Memphis.

Jones smiled Tuesday as she accepted her new position on the board.

“I accept this position with a sense of pride and humility,” Jones said.  “Being chair is not about me. I’m still one member with one vote. I intend to be open to the views of every board member and I will work hard daily.”

Jones, who represents District 2, was initially appointed to the the district’s 23-member board in 2011 when legacy Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools merged to form one district. She was permanently elected to her seat in August 2012.   Her seat was not up for re-election in August when five new candidates were elected to the board which now has nine members.

Over the past year Jones has pushed for more transparency during contentious decisions in which the district has outsourced several services to save money amid dramatic budget cuts.  She has also advocated for Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II and his administration to take more time to research proposals before presenting them to the board for its approval.

Hopson, an attorney by trade, said Tuesday he’s ready to work with Jones, jokingly telling the board they would have to deal with “two lawyers now.”

As chair, a position that lasts for a year, Jones will receive $16,000.  The chair made $4,500 before the Shelby County commission voted this year to give the board a raise. The rest of the board members received a pay raise from $4,000 to $15,000.

Kevin Woods, who represents District 4 and serves as the director of career development at New Horizons, was unanimously voted as the board’s new vice-chairman Tuesday.Woods served as the board’s chairman for the last year.

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at tcheshier@chalkbeat.org and (901) 730-4013.

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