After a year of political posturing and other machinations, the school board is finally beginning to make progress towards a merged school district. Last night, my colleagues and I began to take the first steps toward approving what will be the new Shelby County School System in 2013. Our initial focus has been on two areas: Merger of IT systems and Educational Services.

Most of the educational services recommendations last night dealt with teachers and administrators and use of TEI initiatives to drive quality in our teaching corps. This included things like hiring and transfer practices such as mutual consent, etc. The importance of these teacher initiatives gives the board flexibility to reward, promote, and discipline effective and ineffective teachers.

The big ticket item approved Thursday night was our back-end enterprise ERP system to merge all of our financial, HR, and accounting functions into one system. The price tag was placed at 13.9 million dollars. However thsi included the system, development, implementation, project management, training, and testing. This is a huge step forward as it will drive capital and operational cost savings over the next several years. If we would have kept the same systems on both sides, we would have spent millions of dollars integrating the two, and creating a system complexity that was expensive and difficult to support. The right call was to merge the IT systems.

Our next steps become More complicated as we begin to deal with things like expansion of Pre-K which is a great aspiration but very expensive.I support Pre-K but we have to determine its cost and its affordability. we also begin to deal with school closures, outsourcing of custodial, busses, and other areas for cost savings.

We will also begin to deal with attendance zones and our transfer rules and policies. Many controversial components that will be vetted based upon good, quantitative data and cost/benefit, at least that will be my perspective.

Lost in all of this discussion is the reality of municipal school districts. However, it reamins in the back of our minds as we build capacity in things like systems and other areas to allow subscriber based services to these new districts.

However, at this point, it is just one step at a time.


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