Memphis-Shelby County Schools rebrand


Brad Vest, The Daily Memphian

On the first day of the 2021-2022 school year, Superintendent Joris Ray made the rounds and welcomed students from multiple schools in the district. His “Reimagining 901” plan has driven the board and the district in a new direction after returning from a fully virtual school year.

From Memphis City Schools to Shelby County Schools to the upcoming Memphis-Shelby County Schools, the largest public school district in Tennessee has taken on many names. Since his unanimous appointment in 2019, Superintendent Joris Ray has prioritized a district rebrand, allotting $900,000 to this effort. This large sum of money begs the question about the necessity of this rebrand.

“I honestly do not think [the district rebrand] is necessary,” Paxton Smythe (12) said. “[T]he idea of it is nice, but there is no need to spend that much money to change the name of something with an already perfect name.”

Along with a retitling, the Board of Education has unveiled Ray’s “Reimagining 901” plan that aims at improving student achievement and connecting students to their community. By reinserting “Memphis” into the district’s title, the Board pays homage to Memphis City Schools origins, as well as the city it thrives in.

“I think the district rebrand is beneficial and definitely provides a more accurate description of the district’s student population,” Alma Gahlaut (11) said. “I personally don’t think it’s a waste of money. The rebrand not only changes the name, but also changes elements that [are] beneficial to improving the learning experience of students.”

Memphis is home to six other school districts, each of which hosts an incorporated city. However, some argue that the district’s new name inherently excludes students from the other unincorporated suburbs of Memphis such as Germantown, Cordova and Arlington. 

“I do feel connected because I have been a part of Shelby County Schools since the 2nd grade,” Wasuk Lado (10) said. “I somewhat agree [with rebranding MSCS] since Shelby County Schools is majority Memphis, but some schools aren’t necessarily in the Memphis area like Cordova Elementary, Middle, and High [schools]. I think it won’t affect students that much but keeping the name Shelby County Schools is more inclusive and welcomes everybody, not [just] those who just live in the Memphis area.”

As the MSCS district hosts over 100,000 students in its hundreds of schools, the “Reimaging 901” plan targets individuals, particularly those falling behind, with a projected graduation rate of 90% by 2030. To achieve these seemingly lofty goals, the Board has projected spending hundreds of millions of dollars. 

“Most students attending SCS live within the city of Memphis, so the rebrand provides a clearer understanding of this demographic,” Gahlaut said. “The rebrand will come at an additional cost to some degree, but this will ultimately benefit students. The changes being made will give students the opportunity to be successful.”