Why Fight?

In my previous post, I talked about the politics of school buildings and Rep. Todd’s bill to allow the municipal school districts governments to takeover county schools. Today was the last day to file bills and the senate bill was not filed thereby killing the bill for this session. The question that I get is: Since the Republicans own both legislatures could they not push this through? The answer is not obvious to you but it is to me:

The new SCS Board is willing to work this out. The media would have you to believe that we are bitterly divided when only a handful of commissioners are not willing to work together. The reality is that those who were appointed to our board were so frustrated with their system that they felt this was the only way to stop the MCS pain. However, they also understand the implications for our community as well. We work well together.

There is also immense business pressure from the community as they begin to exert their influence by threats of relocating businesses if we do not cooperate. That impacts all of our livelihoods.

I truly believe that we will come up with a solution that everyone can agree to. The stakes are very high for this community and an epic battle is not the way to resolve this.

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The Politics of School Buildings

The past couple of weeks have been whirlwind reports for all of our municipal governments and their abilities to create their own school system. I attended some of these meetings and was impressed at the level engagement from our Bartlett Board of Alderman. For the most part, I found the questions and concerns to be pretty valid. I also found that although the consultant was thorough in his report, he really did not cover what the cost to the taxpayer would be in the case the buildings had to be purchased. Although not totally cost prohibitive, to pay for the buildings would be painful.

Enter in Rep. Curry Todd from Nashville: One Tuesday, he filed three bills that could effect consolidation in this county. One bill effectively requires the county schools board to hand county schools located in the new school system to the new school board. The second bill allows the creation of county municipal school districts where multiple cities could form one school district with one superintendent and board. The third bill allows the municipal governments to work with the commissioner of education to begin the process.

The most explosive of the three bills really has to do with buildings. The bill really codifies practices that have happened in the past when the county transferred property to the city of Memphis when areas were annexed. This rule is actually in state law. However, the law is silent on when a county school system transfer property to a new school system. That opens up the opportunity for a group of people to file a lawsuit. Mr. Todd is working to make sure that it is defined in law to remove that argument.

That will leave only a class action lawsuit that Martavious Jones has already said he would file. Unfortunately for him, it can be argued that citizens in the county could file a class action lawsuit claiming that they have not had access to buildings they have paid for 100 years.

The reality is that we don’t have to fight over these buildings. There is no reason to. We have all paid for them and you cannot measure and compare apples to apples in terms of equity.I think that our board is prepared to work with each other for whatever number of districts arise. I think some will work outside of our board to stop it: To no avail…

A Reasonable Board

Over the past year, there has been a lot of focus on the consolidation of the Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools. There were multiple lawsuits filed asking for clarity on the path that consolidation would take, especially the composition of the school board as it related to state law. The judge crafted a solution that placed the old SCS board(7 members) and the old MCS board(9 members) together and the county commission appointed 7 board members to make sure that equal representation existed across the district. That comes to a whopping 23 members. Obviously, 23 members is a lot over he next two years but I think you will find the dynamics fascinating. Here are some things I have learned:

1) The referendum on the dissolution of the city charter was more about unhappiness with the MCS than fear of the suburbs. In my discussions with other board members, particularly the appointed ones, they are interested in fixing the problems in the MCS and not breaking  the old SCS and there is no love for the MCS administration.

2)The new board has its members that would rather fight a war as opposed to working together to forge a solution that is agreeable to all parties. However, I think that these members are in the minority. I think that the overall board understands that we have a need to make sure that everyone is successful regardless of if the municipal governments create their own school districts. I think that we have a responsibility to make sure these smaller school districts are successful.

3) The way forward is by agreement by the SCS board. I believe that the true solution to what the overall school district will look like is by agreement of the board. An article was posted last week that spoke of the TN legislators drafting legislation to address property and how it is disposed. Although the legislature can do what they want, it may be a little premature to insert legislation while property disposal policy is being determined by the new board.

4)The judge still presides over this consolidation. All disputes and class-action suits will be referred to the judge for a remedy.  I remember as we sat around the table with the judge that his desire was not to create solution but to have the board members come to an agreement. The judge weighs the local decisions heavily and I think will give great weight to the solution that the SCS board agrees to.

I will do all that I can to make sure that we get to where we want to go. That is a best in class education system that is an asset to our community, promotes economic and community stability, and is a one of the best school districts in the state. My goal is to do that regardless of how the overall district is put together. I will support the new SCS and any municipal school districts that the cities decide to create. It is our job to make sure that education is successful in Shelby County.

The Inside Scoop

I am fortunate to have been chosen to serve on the Shelby County School Board over the past two years. However, there is so much that you don’t know or that you miss that you will not see in the local newspaper or on the local news. This blog has been created to share information and experiences that I have as both a sitting school board member and a candidate for the Bartlett Board of Aldermen. You will find that many of the issues found in the school system is married to the what is happening in Bartlett. I look to share my thoughts and pieces of information with you that you will find valuable as well as perspectives on our city life. I look forward to feedback and questions and encourage you to ask them as you see fit.