Shelby County’s high-profile school turnaround program, which is also one of its more expensive initiatives, would grow this fall by two more schools under Superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s proposed budget.
Raleigh-Egypt Middle-High School emerged this week as a second school planned for the Innovation Zone. The superintendent already had tagged Sheffield Elementary to enter the transformation model.
If Hopson’s budget passes, the iZone would grow to 23 schools — all of which seek to significantly increase student scores through intense interventions such as extending the school day by one hour.
The annual cost to have both schools in the iZone is $1.4 million, which is higher than the usual $600,000-per-school price tag. That’s because of Raleigh-Egypt’s expanded grades and Sheffield’s higher-than-average population of English learners, said Chief of Schools Sharon Griffin.
“We’re in a unique position this year because of the additional funds,” Griffin said of the district’s balanced budget. “And we want to make sure we’re supporting schools, not just when they get totally critical like what has been the history of iZone schools ready for takeover, but to put some supports in place to support them before they are extremely critical.”
The proposed expansion would be the iZone’s first in the Raleigh and Parkway Village communities of Memphis.
Griffin said American Way Middle and Sheffield High are likely iZone candidates for the following year to complete Sheffield Elementary’s feeder pattern.
Raleigh-Egypt has been under a microscope since 2012 when the high school made the state’s “priority school” list of its 5 percent lowest-performing schools. In 2015, the school almost was taken over by the state-run Achievement School District but was spared at the 11th hour when academic growth exceeded expectations.
This school year, Shelby County leaders reconfigured the high school to include middle school grades after the ASD took control of nearby Raleigh-Egypt Middle School and assigned it to a charter operator. That maneuver allowed the local district to retain more than half of the middle school students and funding that it would have lost to the state-run district.
Raleigh-Egypt Middle-High School has about 900 students.
Sharon Griffin said no decision has been made about whether to retain Principal Bo Griffin, who has led Raleigh-Egypt High’s academic growth since 2014, in its transition to the iZone.
Raleigh-Egypt Middle School was briefly considered as a candidate for the iZone last year as leaders of the local and state-run districts tried to avoid having two middle schools on the same campus. But the idea was abandoned.