Shelby County Schools (Tennessee)

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The Shelby County School District is a public school district that serves the city of Memphis, Tennessee

Due to the city of Memphis dissolving its school charter in 2011, as of July 1, 2013 all Shelby County residents were served by SCS, including those in Memphis. Following passage of a state law lifting the ban on establishment of new school districts, the six incorporated suburbs in the county each voted in July 2013 to establish six independent municipal school districts. As a result, as of the start of the 2014 school year, the six incorporated cities in Shelby County (other than Memphis) are each served by separate school districts.[1]

As of August 2014 there are six municipal school districts known as Collierville Schools, Germantown Municipal Schools, Bartlett City Schools, Arlington Community Schools, Lakeland School System, and Millington Municipal Schools. Shelby County Schools serve the city of Memphis, Tennessee and unincorporated areas.


The Shelby County School District was developed in the late 19th century, after public schools were established in the county. Until July 1, 2013, it served residents of Shelby County, Tennessee, exclusive of the City of Memphis, which established its own public school system in 1868.

Over decades of development and change, the city of Memphis and Shelby County differed in their ability to support their school systems. By the 1990s, the state ranked as 45th in funding of public schools. The legislature passed the Education Improvement Act EIA) in 1992 to improve funding of schools as well as election of board members and school management. Until 1996, Shelby County school board members had been appointed by the Shelby County Commission.

This arrangement was changed due to Tennessee's interpretation of its constitutional requirement that county officials, including school boards, be elected by all residents of the county, as well as elements of the state's Education Improvement Act of 1992, which addressed election of school boards. The Shelby County Commission established seven single-member districts to elect representatives to the school board; the districts represented the entire population of the county, although the city of Memphis at the time had its own school system and its residents were not served by the county system. The population of Memphis comprised more than 75% of the county's population in 1990 and would have dominated the school board with six of seven positions. (In 2013, Memphis has 70% of the county's population.)

Plaintiffs from the county, including the mayors of the six municipalities, objected under the Equal Protection Clause to having their system dominated by county residents who would not be served by the system. The US District Court, in a 1997 decision affirmed by the Appeals Court, ruled that the Constitution did not require all county residents to be included in a district that served only part of the county. As a result, the special election districts were redrawn to represent the area of Shelby County outside the city of Memphis, as this was the area served by the county school district.

On March 8, 2011, Memphis city residents voted to dissolve their school charter and disband Memphis City Schools, effectively merging the city with the Shelby County School District.[2] The city had the authority to do this under state law. The merger was to be implemented effective at the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Total enrollment in the county school system as of the 2010-2011 school year, was about 47,000 students,[3] making the district the fourth largest in Tennessee.[4] With the Memphis/Shelby County merger completed, the district received an addition of more than 100,000 students, making it the largest system in the state and one of the larger systems in the country.

In 2011 Sam Dillon of The New York Times concluded that although there was existing inequality between Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools, "nobody expects the demographics of schools to change much" as a result of the merger between the districts. He noted that "most students in both districts are assigned to neighborhood schools and housing tends to be segregated."[5] Some white families expressed concern that the merger would provoke white flight from Shelby County, which has lost white population in the last decade.[5]

Withdrawal by six suburbs[edit]

Following the merger, the state legislature passed a law that lifted the statewide ban on forming new school districts; this was effectively for Shelby County only, as it limited new special school districts to only counties with populations over 900,000. Shelby County is the only one to meet that criterion. The six incorporated municipalities had elections in which voters chose to establish their own independent school districts. These elections were overturned in 2012 as the state law was held to be unconstitutional by the state court, as being written for a particular group of people and not the whole state. In 2013, the Tennessee General Assembly lifted the ban statewide. In July 2013, the six incorporated suburbs in Shelby County overwhelmingly voted again in favor of their own municipal schools and withdrew from the county system.

Governance and administration[edit]

Spanish sign of Berclair Elementary School

The county district is governed by a seven-member board of education. Board members represent seven special election districts in the Shelby County school district, which includes the city of Memphis but not the six suburban municipalities. These members are elected to four-year terms.

In 2015, the County district is led by its 24th superintendent, Dorsey Hopson, who replaced John Aitken (2009-2014). Aitken has been affiliated with the district since 1983, starting as a math teacher at Collierville Middle School. After nine years as a classroom teacher, he became assistant principal and later principal of Houston High School.[6]

Aitken's predecessor, Dr. Bobby G. Webb, was superintendent from January 2002 until 2009. Previously he had served for 14 years as superintendent of public schools in Lauderdale County.[7] He is the only superintendent to be recognized twice by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents as Tennessee's Superintendent of the Year, having received that distinction in 1996 and 2001.[citation needed]


All of the "legacy" SCS schools in the school district are accredited. These particular schools meet the standards of the Tennessee State Department of Education and the accreditation standards of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The legacy Shelby County School District was the first large district in Tennessee to be accredited in its entirety by SACS.[4]

List of schools prior to July 2013[edit]

The list of schools is of the former SCS district schools, and is therefore incomplete.

Elementary Schools[edit]

  • Altruria Elementary School (Bartlett)
  • Arlington Elementary School (Arlington)
  • Bailey Station Elementary School (Collierville/Collierville Annexation Reserve)
  • Barret's Elementary School (Unincorporated/Millington-Bartlett-Lakeland-Arlington Annexation Reserves)
  • Bartlett Elementary School (Bartlett)
  • Bon Lin Elementary School (Bartlett/Bartlett Annexation Reserve)
  • Collierville Elementary School (Collierville)
  • Crosswind Elementary School (Collierville)
  • Dexter Elementary School (Memphis Annexation Reserve)
  • Dogwood Elementary School (Germantown/Small Part of Western Collierville)
  • Donelson Elementary School (Arlington/Lakeland)
  • Ellendale Elementary School (Bartlett/Bartlett Annexation Reserve)
  • Farmington Elementary School (Germantown/Extreme NW Collierville)
  • Germantown Elementary School (Germantown)
  • E. A. Harrold Elementary School (Millington/Millington Annexation Reserve)
  • Highland Oaks Primary School (K-1, Memphis Annexation Reserve)
  • Highland Oaks Elementary School (2-5, Memphis Annexation Reserve)
  • E. E. Jeter Elementary School (Unincorporated/Millington Annexation Reserve)
  • Lakeland Elementary School (Lakeland)
  • Lucy Elementary School (Millington/Millington Annexation Reserve)
  • Macon-Hall Elementary School (Memphis Annexation Reserve)
  • Millington Elementary School (Millington)
  • Northaven Elementary School (Memphis Annexation Reserve)
  • Oak Elementary School (Bartlett)
  • Rivercrest Elementary School (Bartlett/Bartlett Annexation Reserve)
  • Southwind Elementary School (Memphis Annexation Reserve)
  • Sycamore Elementary School (Collierville/Collierville Annexation Reserve)
  • Tara Oaks Elementary School (Collierville/Collierville Annexation Reserve)

Secondary schools[edit]

Middle schools[edit]

  • Appling Middle School (Bartlett)
  • Arlington Middle School (Arlington/Unincorporated)
  • Bon Lin Middle School (Bartlett/West Part of Lakeland)
  • Collierville Middle School[8] (Collierville/Collierville Annexation Reserve)
  • Dexter Middle School (Memphis Annexation Reserve)
  • Elmore Park Middle School (Bartlett)
  • Germantown Middle School (Germantown)
  • Highland Oaks Middle School (Memphis Annexation Reserve)
  • Houston Middle School (Germantown/West Part of Collierville)
  • Millington Middle School (Millington/Millington Annexation Reserve)
  • Mt. Pisgah Middle School (Memphis Annexation Reserve)
  • Schilling Farms Middle School (Collierville/Collierville Annexation Reserve)
  • Shadowlawn Middle School (Bartlett/Bartlett-Memphis Annexation Reserve)
  • Woodstock Middle School (Millington/Unincorporated)

K-8 schools[edit]

  • Riverdale School (Germantown)
  • Lowrance Elementary School (Memphis)

High schools[edit]

Note: Some areas within the Shelby County Schools coverage area were zoned to Memphis City Schools' Cordova High School (located in an unincorporated area and operated by Memphis City Schools) while being zoned to Shelby County Schools' elementary and middle schools.

Former schools[edit]

Secondary schools[edit]

High schools[edit]

  • Cordova High School - (The school was placed into the Memphis City Schools system in fall 2004) - Cordova High School serves some areas within the Shelby County Schools area that are zoned to Shelby County Schools-operated schools for elementary and middle school.
  • Kirby High School - Hickory Hill was annexed by the City of Memphis in December 1998, thus placing the school in the Memphis City Schools system in fall 1999. Kirby primarily serves the southeast area of Memphis going to the current city-unincorporated county boundary line. Outside of this boundary, all schools are zoned to the Shelby County Schools.
  • Raleigh-Egypt High School - Annexed with Raleigh in the 1970s. Serves the west and northwest area of Raleigh.

Middle schools[edit]

  • Kirby Middle School (Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Raleigh-Egypt Middle School (Memphis, Tennessee) - Annexed with Raleigh in the 1970s.

Elementary schools[edit]

  • Brownsville Road Elementary
  • Capleville Elementary - Former elementary school on Shelby Drive, building vacant, but still owned by Shelby County Schools. Building destroyed by fire in 2009.
  • Egypt Elementary - Annexed with Raleigh in the 1970s.
  • Kate Bond Elementary School - (Kate Bond was placed into the Memphis City Schools system in fall 2004)
  • Millington East Elementary School (Merged with Millington South)
  • Millington South Elementary School (Merged with Millington East)
  • Ross Elementary
  • Winchester Elementary - Annexed with Whitehaven in the 1970s.

School uniforms[edit]

For the 2013-2014 school year, the district will preserve existing dress codes in its schools. Those schools requiring student uniforms will continue the uniform programs, while those schools without uniforms will continue that practice. The board said that, after one year, any school could petition to change its dress code policy, but such changes would have to followed for a minimum of four years. [13]

Other facilities[edit]

The administration of Shelby County Schools is headquartered in Memphis.[14] The Francis E. Coe Administration Building,[15][16] the headquarters facility, was shared between the pre-merger Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools.

The building has two wings, and one had been used by each pre-merger district. As of 2013 the corridor linking the wings had double-locked doors, and the glass panels had been covered by particle boards. Irving Hamer, the deputy superintendent of Memphis City Schools, described the barrier as "our Berlin Wall."[5]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Coverage of the School Merger News for Memphis, TN", The Commercial Appeal Archived February 22, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ McMillin, Zack (8 March 2011). "Memphis voters OK school charter surrender". The Commercial Appeal. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 9 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Campbell Robertson, and total of 885 full time staff and employees "Memphis to Vote on Transferring School System to County", The New York Times, January 27, 2011[dead link]
  4. ^ a b District Information, Shelby County Schools website, accessed January 27, 2011 Archived July 12, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b c Dillon, Sam. "Merger of Memphis and County School Districts Revives Race and Class Challenges." The New York Times. November 5, 2011. Retrieved on June 3, 2013.[dead link]
  6. ^ John Aitken, Superintendent of Shelby County Schools, Shelby County Schools website, accessed January 27, 2011 Archived September 11, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Superintendent Webb to Retire from Shelby County Schools". WHBQ. February 26, 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-03-24. Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  8. ^ Archived November 22, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Archived December 11, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Houston High School Archived October 31, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ MCHS Website has moved Archived April 6, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Southwind High School Archived September 6, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Chen, Natasha. "Shelby County Schools Keep Existing Uniform Policy." (Archive) WREG-TV. May 28, 2013. Retrieved on June 3, 2013.
  14. ^ "1b.jpg." Shelby County Schools. Retrieved on July 15, 2011. "160 S. Hollywood St. Memphis, TN 38112" Archived September 22, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Contact Us." Memphis City Schools. Retrieved on July 2, 2013. "Memphis City Schools 2597 Avery Avenue Memphis, TN 38112" Archived June 14, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Board of Commissioners." Memphis City Schools. Retrieved on July 2, 2013. "[...]the Francis E. Coe Administration Building, 2597 Avery Avenue." Archived March 3, 2013 at the Wayback Machine