A Response for Mike Ritz

Chairman Ritz,

I wanted to send you a note in response to an article that you wrote in the Memphis Flyer this week. First, I would like to say that we are all entitled to our opinions and views and I respect that. However, I would expect that man of your stature and regard in this community would make a few more assertions based upon fact than opinion. In this case, I will help enlighten you:

#1: Your first assertion is that we need a special master because based upon a discussion with a suburban mayor and a school board member, you don’t feel that the district will open with the best chance for success in the fall.I am not sure to whom you have spoken but the lion share of the planning to transfer the administration to SCS is complete.

  • Our school boundaries are set.
  • Children who live in a zone know where they will go to school.
  • The transfer process is working great.
  • The optional school process is working fine.
  • We know that we are teaching common core curriculum and driving toward its implementation
  • We have a superintendent under contract until we decide to replace him which is the board’s prerogative
  • We have approved the TEI model to guarantee effective teachers and leaders in school.
  • We have voted to outsource custodial and are awaiting updated RFP’s to award a contract.
  • We are awaiting final RFP’s to make a final decision on whether or not to outsource busses
  • We are merging the rest of our policies and most are not that different since most are based on state law.
  • Our budget will be set for May like usual. I expect it to be substantially smaller than 145. Closer to 40-50 million deficit.
  • We will remain SCS
  • And finally, the administration is implementing most operational decisions to marry staffing models up with the final budget.

#2: Next, you make the assertion that 6 suburban representatives are playing obstructionists on the board to favor the suburbs.

Obviously, this is an opinion and not based on fact since the 6 of us have led the charge to implement policies based upon the following standards:

  • Does it increase educational outcomes
  • Does it make education delivery more efficient?
  • Does it deliver education at the lowest cost?

 As far as if we are supporting the position of our suburban mayors in the legislature, I would contend that you are doing a fine job of that without us. We represent our people, not a mayor. And here is what our people want:

  • A great  and cost-effective educational experience for their children

They believe that this better happens in a municipal school district. However, the votes of our suburban board members have always supported the premise to make the SCS system the best it can be while we exist on the board. And I back that assertion up in my statements on WKNO Behind the Headlines when I say “All educational systems in Shelby County must be great for the fiscal and social health of the community.” And I challenge you to find one vote to the contrary we have taken on the board.

#3: You assert that we dragged our feet on getting rid of Kriner Cash

The suburban representatives voted to do this early on and favored a buy-out. we did not drag our feet. It was a matter of timing.

#4: You assert that we approved the 145 million dollar budget and many more similar actions or inactions to add fuel to the fire of suburban mayors and other critics of a unified system.

While that may have been an output of the budget process, the suburban reps voted for the 145 million because the new budget reflected significant cuts in staffing in the old SCS which categorically is in opposition to principle number one to not impact quality of education.I added the 80 million back in the budget to cover leveling up the staffing model. Now ,we all know that we won’t get that much but I wanted to inform the populace as that their education was getting impacted due to the merger.

You also draw some assertions that these municipalities cannot afford to have their own school district. Well, I can unequivocally say that, if a charter school can run on BEP, Local, and Federal dollars then a significant scaled down muni-school district has a chance.

Finally, I would like to add that the actions of the county commission by far and away have fueled the action taking in Nashville more than anything we have done: Example:

  • Trying to enter into an agreement with the School Board to strip it of its fiduciary responsibility for how it disposes of assets.
  • Negotiating in private(without the schools board) charter school deals that would have been taken to the judge to mint in a consent decree and strip powers from the school board.
  • Continuing litigation that drains the county of its fiscal reserves.
  • Threatening to expand a Shelby County School Board to expand it to 13 which will systematically undo and all progress that has been made in redefining education in the county.
  • Promising to not put the sales tax on referendum and lying to the voters Shelby County by doing.

Based upon my discussions with legislators, the county commission actions have been the primary drivers in actions that have been taken. Not the school board.

In closing, I would ask that before publishing an article and speaking of it as fact and making assertions based upon your ignorance and pulling my name into it., Please call me and validate your facts. I would be a happy to set you straight.

Regards,

David Reaves

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