THAT IS TRANSPARENCY: Interim Superintendent Toni Williams’ First Year Reflection

MSCS Interim Superintendent Toni Williams shared a message with employees and families following the Board Business Meeting held on June, 27, 2023. 

Read the full message below. 

I inherited more challenges than you could ever imagine – a District in distress. It took more than one person to create the challenges, and it will take more than one school year to correct them. But I have not quit on our students or run from the challenges because I am a reformer. 

At tonight’s [June 27, 2023] Board Business Meeting, the School Board voted to renew my contract as interim superintendent until Summer 2024. Board Chair Rev. Dr. Althea Greene added,

“We greatly appreciate and value how Toni Williams is conducting her duties as our interim superintendent. However, at this time, Board members agree that, for the sake of moving forward, Interim Superintendent Toni Williams should not be considered a superintendent search finalist in this process. She has displayed her dedication to keeping the District moving forward with the long hours she’s invested in getting the work done right. … She has conducted herself with high integrity and respect; which is why we want her to continue leading the District while we continue the process for a permanent superintendent.”

I thank the Board for offering me another year to serve as interim superintendent and continue the reforms I have started. The issues that face Memphis-Shelby County Schools are a combination of the changing landscape of urban public schools, severely aged and underfunded infrastructure, and out-of-date operating procedures and systems that I have worked tirelessly to reform. 

Over the past 302 days, I have dedicated myself to serving the 110,000 students, 14,000 employees, and countless families in this District. As part of my commitment, I strive to serve the best interests of our students and employees, a responsibility that I hold with the utmost sincerity.

In recent months, I have placed a significant focus on transparency. Here is how I’ve done so:

On October 25, 2022, my first 55 days of being Interim Superintendent, I published a detailed Critical Needs Assessment, where I outlined key findings and areas of opportunity. In that report, I explained preliminary findings of an investigation conducted by the MSCS Internal Audit Department. I addressed these compliance issues with a corrective action plan that aligned with the Tennessee Internal Control and Compliance manual.

That is transparency. 

MSCS is a community filled with passionate individuals who dedicate themselves and make a meaningful difference in the work they do. In particular, our Chief of Internal Audit, Leon Pattman, and his team have conducted sound, independent investigations. He has led in a way that separates himself from the District – working with the State Comptroller’s Office directly. His diligence has greatly contributed to our current reforms. In addition, we have a strong relationship with our independent auditors. We have even taken the opportunity to bring on additional auditors from Forvis, one of the largest accounting firms in the U.S. That report, which I requested, will be received and publicly available by the end of July.

That is transparency. 

Currently, there are allegations being made that attempt to cast doubt on the financial integrity of this District. Under my leadership, we have received two consecutive clean audits and have undergone five federal reviews that resulted in no negative findings. As a leader, I hold fiscal responsibility in the highest regard.

I have stressed that our path to success lies with Academics, Safety, Respect, and Value.

Last year, Hanover Research conducted an evaluation of our Strategic Academics Framework, and based on their recommendations, we realigned it to adhere to best practices. 

There is always room for improvement. That’s why, during the State of the District address, I called for an Academic review. 

Since then, I have supported our academics team to increase their capacity internally and externally. They are focused on prioritization of our post-ESSER dollars and maximization of Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) dollars.

We are also in conversations with the Council of the Great City Schools to complete and facilitate a review of academics.  

That is transparency.

I deeply appreciate every employee. Particularly, I want to express special gratitude to our social workers and mental health staff for their unwavering support to our students. Your dedication is truly invaluable. With that, our Human Resources compensation team is proud to unveil the new pay structure for Social Workers and Psychologists.

Under this proposal, MSCS Psychologists, on average, will see an increase of $8,607.74. And MSCS Social Workers will see, on average, an increase of $10,871.38. 

In closing, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Shelby County Commission for approving our budget and providing funding for the District’s first new high schools in 10 years. Moving forward, we will collaborate closely with county Mayor Lee Harris’ office to explore strategies for reducing deferred maintenance at other schools. Our goal is to ensure all of our students have state-of-the-art buildings. 

Throughout my career, I have built a foundation based on integrity and accountability. These values have guided my professional journey, and remain steadfast as I tackle the challenges I inherited. I am a reformer. I will continue to make improvements that strengthen this District and share these improvements publicly. 

Because that is transparency.


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