SCS 3- Year Enrollment Numbers

Attached you will find a 3 year picture of all schools in SCS and their enrollment numbers. I think you will find that most are still very stable except for Millington High. In some schools where you see a dramatic drop or gain, it is probably the result of rezoning by our board to correct an overcrowding issue.

SCS Enrollment Patterns 12-13

Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions.

School Utilization Numbers

Attached you will find the school utilization numbers so far this year for the MCS and SCS.. Pay careful attention to the school that are under 65% utilization. I am going to do some digging and see how these schools have trended the past two years.

SCS Utilization High to Low 12 12 12

2012-2013 MCS Utilization 40th day-Lewis

2012-2013 MCS Utilization 65% Lewis

Making the best out of a tough situation

In February of this year, I was patiently waiting for a November showdown with Bobby Simmons for alderman position 4. But as God would have it, I was compelled to remain on the SCS board. I always believed that if municipal schools did not materialize this year that we would need a strong voice on our board. Well, we are here today.

While I know that there are efforts to continue the fight for municipal districts, I must move forward with making the best school district as we can for all of us. With that said, it is time for the school board to start making some moves to stabilize our district.

1) We must solve our superintendent dilemma. Kriner Cash’s contract has been non-renewed. However, we are walking down the road of conducting a superintendent search. I don’t believe the timing is right and I plan to vote to push off an superintendent search until after the merger.

2) We must make a move to go ahead freeze boundaries for two years although I would like to push for 5. Allow children to finish schools in their feeder pattern.

3) From a policy viewpoint,we need to minimize or eliminate modifications to policies that significantly impact the populace and change over time after merger. (especially the employee children transfer policies)

4) Hold a summit of the cities to discuss 2013 and what they would like to see happen in 13 to makes sure their desires are integrated into the decision making process.

5) The board needs to pass a resolution to ask the TN general assembly to convert Shelby County to a special school district. This would in effect freeze the board at 7 members and allow the assembly to set our school tax rate. This would remove all authority from the county commission(over the board of education) and better align our education strategy with the commissioner of education and the state department.

I think that my role moves more to making peace and designing a district that can suit the needs of urban, suburban, and rural children.

I want each of you to know while none of this is ideal, I will do all that I can to make it work. I know that you did not pick this fight. However, we all have options and my options right now are to make this district work. I will need your help.

A Few Thoughts on Collaborative Conferencing

As teachers vote this week on collaborative conferencing, I wanted to share a few thoughts that we should keep in mind base upon my board experience.

Last year, the TN state legislature did away with the ability for teacher’s unions to bargain. It was replaced with collaborative conferencing which gives the teacher’s union a seat at the table but no ability to dictate the terms of teacher contract/benefits. We will listen but are under no commitment to act on it. For this to happen over 50% of our teacher’s have to vote in the affirmative for it.

As a practical matter, I have been able to observe the functioning of the MEA/SCEA and I can say these things without hesitation:

The MEA is interested in the MEA leadership and membership. Time and again, they allow the recycling of poor performing, seniority based teachers over high performing newer teachers. They are the main reason that the the TN Assembly passed laws last year removing collective bargaining and the state department developed the teacher evaluation rubrick and changed the tenure laws. Memphis is a case study in a heavy handed teachers union protecting bad teachers and board members protecting them. If you want to thank anyone for the new laws, it is them.

The SCEA has only been an association with no need to bargain in the past. However, as of late, it has become an organization struggling to find its place in this merged district. However, the SCEA like the MEA is interested in membership and relevance. Take for instance, John Aitken as superintendent. The SCEA supported board members who supported teachers unions but is against John Aitken becoming superintendent. But those who support John and opposed unions (like me) they turned their back. All the while the SCEA “supported” Mr. A for superintendent while trying to unseat those who supported him.

I am a firm believer that if you have a good superintendent and board, teachers and administrators will always have your ear. I understand that many of teachers believe that this representation will be good for them. Well, I can say that if you are a citizen of this county, that you have unfettered access to the ear of your elected representative. You do not need a talking figure head to talk on your behalf.

Now What? Pondering our educational options as parents

I believe that now is the time to begin truly pondering the future of education of those of us in the suburbs. This past week I was extremely dismayed when Kriner Cash got up from his seat in our school board meeting and made the statement, “this new district will be an urban district. Municipalities come on but if you do, understand that we will be an urban district.” Tough words from a short timer.

I don’t know about you but I did not move to the suburbs and pay a premium for a home to attend an urban school system. I know that is where many if not most of you are. So since you have been denied twice the ability to create your own school district, I believe that we as parents need to look at our options. You must be educated. Maybe I can help.

1) You can stay in the district. There will be a merged district next year. And although the TPC plan mentions few changes to the district, I can tell you that is garbage. Most of this plan is aspirational in nature.  This became plainly clear last night when I realized that Memphis has lots of underutilized schools with few students in the worst parts of town. Lack of students impacts educational programming in a school. The more full the school, the more than can be offered. This is where we hear thinks like equitable education. It is why for several years that Arlington and Bolton’s programs eclipsed Bartlett. Lack of students. On top of this, the district is broke. It was broke before the merger (MCS)and the merger has made it much worse. There is little to no money in areas to really make a dent except for benefits and salaries.80% of our budget is comprised benefits and salaries.I believe that will impact programming at our suburban schools ultimately. We could see removal of arts programs and athletic programs due to lack of funds. In better words, we do not have enough money to bring the entire county up to our standards. We could see the “equitable” redistribution of programs and resources across the district.

2) We can convert our schools into charter schools and allow a charter management organization to run them. A charter school is a public school funded by taxpayer dollars. However, the charter management organization is a non-profit group with an appointed board. They run their schools like a school district. Public money flows directly to the CMO. The unified board has no say over the school except the charter contract that includes things like performance and lease agreements. The only real power the scs board would have would be to take the school back over if they are failing. There are lots of benefits to this structure. And it could be a good short-term solution until the new districts are started. The beauty in charter districts is that parents or teachers can vote by 60% to convert and it will have to be done. Or we as  board can vote to convert. There are other details like open enrollment and other issues that exist but it gets you much closer to what you want.

3) Virtual/Home School Education – A huge opportunity that presented itself this year was approval of virtual schools in TN. K12 virtual schools allow children to be educated remotely/at home/ in a group at no cost. This is because K12 is registered as a Tennessee school and all state and local dollars go to K12.Currently, only k-8 is authorized in TN. However, high school grades could be authorized to provide secondary options.. This could be an excellent option for many of us because we can create remote classes for our children utilizing local churches, homes, or municipal space and create our own virtual schools. Since we have access to the state approved curriculum at no cost, it could make it a more attractive option than traditional home school. We could hire former teachers as tutors and away we go.

4) Private School – you can go to private school if you can afford it but based upon the governors summer study report on vouchers, unless you are poor, a voucher for private school is not likely.

I do not know the future of educational legislation for municipal districts. I do not know how long it will take for this to run its course. I do know that the future education of Shelby County Public School system has been compromised by a group of people who believe that we are the devil because we try to provide the best for our children. I am not a gloom and doom person but our most cost-effective education as parents may be to take our children’s education in our own hands. We have some good options. But you must take the power out of our hands.