2 Votes Matter

In case many of you have not been following,there will be Shelby county school board elections this August. At this time, there will only be 7 board members elected. The other 16 members are grandfathered in until August 2013. In September 2013 the county commission will probably expand the board to 13.

The question is: Why does this matter to me? I will not have a board member on the scs after we get our municipal school district. I will have my own city board member. The reason is: 2 votes matter. Let me enlighten you.

When the county commission expanded the school board to 23, they appointed all pro consolidation people, including the ones in the suburbs in district 3 and 4. Obviously, these appointees do not accurately represent the voters in their districts. Lucky for us, they are up for election in just a few months. There are several key decisions to be made over the next year among these being:approval of the consolidation plan, transfer of school buildings to suburbs, and educational agreements with new school boards.

Today our board is split 50/50 with the old mcs and old scs.(whalum supports muni schools). That leaves the appointed 7. There some that are willing to compromise. There are 3 that have not been willing. Two of them are in the suburbs. If you can count, you can see why we need people in position 3 and 4 who are willing to represent their people.

As of this past Friday, 4 of the current appointed members have applied to run in August. The district 3 and 4 appointed members have not pulled a petition. However, it is important that we recruit strong pro-municipal school candidates in 3 and 4. The petition must be pulled and qualified by mid-April. With that said, it is imperative that we recruit candidates now to run for these positions even if they only serve for one year.


The Real Path to Autonomy

Yesterday, the group known as the TPC(the group planning the consolidation of Shelby County Schools), presented a couple of options to consider for an administrative/governance structure for the unified school district. The committee on administrative services presented two solutions. One will be voted on at the March 1st full-meeting of the TPC.

The first solution is what we have today which is a centralized model with lean regional administration serving under one board of education.

The second solution is a new “innovative solution” referred to as “Path to Autonomy”. Don’t let the fancy name fool you. It really is converting existing schools into charter schools. Here are the highlights of this system:

  • Schools would be allowed to apply for “autonomy” by agreement with the unified school board which would allow all decisions to be made at the school level in exchange for a high level of performance. If you do not meet the performance contract, they could take you back over. In the process the school would be converted to a charter schools and a non-profit 501c3 would be brought in to manage the school. The 501c3 has its own board that must have a school parent based upon charter law.
  • The selling point on this solution is that it would be confined to municipal boundaries, schools would be leased to charter school operators, and you have local control supposedly giving you the same effect as municipal districts without the extra taxes.

Now, let me enlighten you of the issues with this model:

  • Lets start with governance, 1) You must apply to the SCS for autonomy status and enter into a contract for performance 2) The schools must be converted to charter schools. On both of these points, the SCS has a say. Specifically during the charter school conversion process(which is easy) the SCS must pick a charter organization to manage your school or schools. There is no mechanism for the parents to pick their own 501c3 to manage these schools. They could easily choose Willie Herenton as the charter school operator. Also, the board of the 501c3 is determined by its charter and the board members are appointed, not elected. Literally with this option, you would have no say over the charter school operator or the board that is appointed.
  • Boundaries of charter schools – for those of you who want community schools, this option will not work. By state law, any student who lives in an LEA can apply and attend any charter school. In the proposed structure, the tpc assumes that you can create a boundary in the community by regions and only charter schools operating in those regions are where students go. That is contrary to state law and would require subsequent legislation to allow “boundaries” to exist. Unfortunately, this creates a case for litigation. Also, charter school attendance is determined by lottery which could mean a student in an area next to the school could be bumped by a child from somewhere in another region.
  • Assumption that buildings are free to charter schools – the SCS has taken a strong position even unto the point of placing into the legislative agenda that they support legislation requiring that charter school must pay “full market value” for schools. This would include sales and lease. Given the fact that charter schools are not allowed to spend ADA money on facilities and have to raise their own money to pay for facilities, the SCS would literally be making money off of itself and the charter would have to raise money to pay its rent.

Executive Summary on Path to Autonomy: The path to autonomy is nothing more than a system full of charter schools full of assumptions non-withstanding the fact that it has substantial legal issues and financial impediments and really a lack of control. For this solution to work, there would have to be new legislation and still there would be no real autonomy. There would actually be another bureaucracy. Municipal schools give you what you want. They are written into law today. You pick your representation through board elections. Your kids are zoned to community schools and not open to lottery requirements. And by the way, since you are tax payers, you are entitled to use of the property for no cost.

People would have you to beleive that municipal schools would not be open to their county share of ADA funding based upon based upon an attorneys a opinion of the Gibson county school system. This would not apply to Shelby County as it stands today. Let me share with you that our county mayor, which I voted for, has taken a pretty substantial stand on this by appointing almost all pro-consolidation members to the tpc and continually brings up roadblocks to stop municipalities from determining their path although he did nothing to stop what Memphis did other than to hold hands with the Memphis mayor. I hope you all rememebr this on election day. But you can trust your city mayor.

It seems to me that the real path to autonomy and having your say is through municipal school districts.

Sneak Attack!

You may have heard a little birdie yesterday about failed resolution at the county commission that would have forced the county school board to get approval from them to sell any county school property. Let me tell you a story.

Friday afternoon, we the SCS facilities ad hoc committee met to talk about a strategy to deal with property. We had come to the conclusion that we needed to bring in the muni mayors to begin discussions about buildings. The next thing you know Tomeka Hart and Martavious Jones pushed for a special meeting to discuss our position on school buildings. It seemed harmless enough at the time as a precursor to our discussions and the meeting was scheduled for Tuesday.

Unfortunately, we had many of our board members out of town on business but seemed that we would have enough for a quorum. Fast forward to Monday morning… Around 10 am I received a phone call from a county commissioner who informed me that Steve Mulroy was going to add a resolution to their meeting that would try to force us to sell the buildings for market value. At 3:50 pm, I received a copy of the meeting agenda for our special meeting on Tuesday and lo and behold the resolution that had yet to be proposed at the county commission was on our agenda.

It then became clear to me. This was an obvious coordinated attack to take advantage of our board while many of our dissenting votes was out of town. If the county commission would have approved this resolution, it would have been confirmed by our board on Tuesday and we would have been bound to its terms.Fortunately, that effort was defeated by the county commission by one vote. The result would have been an agreement that would have required county commission approval before we sold the property. Absolutely, not the responsibility of the commission. As a matter of fact, the resolution was kept secret until the time that it was brought up.

With that said, you absolutely can see what we don’t want in our community. This new Bartlett City School district will have its own right of self determination without having to worry about sneak attacks from the county commission.

The new Bartlett school board will need Bartlett aldermen who will be willing to work with them and help make sure they are adequately funded but accountable. I know what it means to deal with a funding body that tries to take advantage of you. As a member of the board of alderman, I will make sure that our relationship with our board and funding body works and I am well qualified to make sure there are no sneak attacks.

And by the way, you know that meeting we were supposed to have today, we did not have a voting quorum. So much for booby traps..

Finding a solution that works

As you have been able to follow in the news, there is now a real push to come up with a solution with how to allow access to buildings for new municipal schools. As part of the consultant’s report for Bartlett, they opined that Bartlett should be “given”these properties based upon precedent and case law. In short, full title to property with no consideration. I do believe that this is accurate. However, this is sure to face a court challenge that may delay the opening of the new school districts or worst case, a judge decides to throw it out all together and we have to build our own buildings. Obviously logic dictates that this surplus incredible waste. But we do always deal in logic?The question becomes: How do we create a solution that works and keeps us out of court?


The answer is an agreement. I have put forth an agreement that I think would work. The SCS board would enter into and agreement with each school system and allow exclusive access to the new systems for no cost except maintenance and other operational costs. This keeps the ownership with the  SCS but gives possession to the new school district. In the event, the school district was to buy the property, they would have to pay the remainder of the bond debt. I believe that passing title for free is a court case. I believe my solution could keep us out of court.

Many of the buildings in Bartlett have limited bond debt, so occupying by agreement for 10 years should resolve most bond debt and the cities could get the property for free. With that said, if you look at the big picture i am not for just signing over title unless there is no other agreeable option.

Standing at the end of the road is our legislature who is ready to fix the issue. It would be preferable to not use that option because it could lead to court. With that said, we must come up with a compromise.