Shelby County School Board and Shelby County Commission – Connecting the dots

Before I launch out for the my pregame meal(what I eat before I go to the SCS meeting), I wanted to share some thoughts about the relation between the county commission and the Shelby county school board and why I think the next 10 years are crucial decisions to the long-term sustainability of Shelby County.

Education and its related debt service(building, etc) make up 60% of the county tax rate. Roughly $2 goes to operations and .79 goes to deb service.  That comes out to around $2.80(give or take a few cents) on the tax rate. And education is the one expense that continues to rise since 80% of the education budget is made up in salaries and benefits. Unfortunately, businesses are double taxed with a professional tax and a 40% property assessment while residents are stuck with a 25% assessment. This makes business investment and retainment almost impossible without pilots. With the completion if 385, access to Fayette, Tipton, and Marshall County will be as easy as ever.

Realistically, education is a controllable investment and expense. However, the new school board will need to map out a 10 year plan to design a new educational system that drives the tax rate down. Is that impossible? No..

My goal will be to partner with my colleagues and create a  Strategic Education Planning Committee for Shelby County. The goal will be for this committee to be composed of the SCS Board, A Representative from the County Commission, the Memphis City Council, and every Municipality. The goal will be to review the best educational models(ones that are actually successful) and adopt those models district wide, develop a plan to  fund capital(if needed), and a long-term sustainable funding plan that does not require tax increases.. As you can see, the SCS and County Commission are the biggest players in this discussion.

I have ideas and opinions. Does the size and breadth of the administrative structure of the SCS consume much-needed resources out of the school? I believe it does.. Does the continual need to invest in deferred maintenance and buildings fit into our long-term goals? I do not believe so. Can we divest into individual schools and break apart the massive federal, state, and local dragnet that we continually find ourselves in? I think so.. Can we eliminate most of the county bond debt by getting out of the school building business? i think we can.. Can we lower the business tax rate and eliminate most pilots? I think so.. Can we lower the county tax rate over time? I think so..The key is to divest into the schools. And our legislature has given us all of the tools to make it happen.

I believe that a route exists but we have to have willing partners on both sides to figure it out. That is why I plan to start the discussion here and then transition to the county commission to help see it through to a conclusion.

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Rollback Central Office Salary Increases – Lead by Example

This will be significantly more debate… But we need to talk about it..

 

Resolution instructing the Superintendent to roll-back salary increases for central office employees

 

 

WHEREAS, the Shelby County Board of Education is responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of its employees and students

WHEREAS, the employees of Shelby County School system saw no step increases or COLA this year,

WHEREAS, due to budget constraints the Shelby County School Board has also cut services to transportation and teachers;

WHEREAS, it is the goal of this board to lead by example its district and share in the pain and burden financially with its people,

WHEREAS, many central office employees who reapplied for positions in the district saw large pay increases based due to re-classification of job titles,

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED , The Shelby County Board of Education instructs the superintendent to roll-back any salary increases for former employees of the district who re-applied for jobs and subsequently received a pay increase;

NOW, THEREFORE BE FURTHER RESOLVED , the central office cabinet positions and director positions be re-evaluated and bench marked based upon the Shelby County government salary structure vs. nationwide benchmark of salaries for large school districts.

NOW, THEREFORE BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that cost savings, be funneled to transportation budget to increase services or to provide bonuses to school based personnel

 

 

On this _27th_day of August    2013.

 

 

Submitted by:

 

 

 

 

David Reaves

Shelby County School Board District 3

 

Resolution – Eliminate Board Salaries and Travel – Lead by Example

It is time to lead by example.. Here is the text from my resolution I will submit this month,

Resolution instructing the Superintendent to eliminate board member salaries and travel budget starting September 1st.

WHEREAS, the Shelby County Board of Education is responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of its employees and students

WHEREAS, the employees of Shelby County School system saw no step increases or COLA this year, and

WHEREAS, due to budget constraints the Shelby County School Board has also cut services to transportation and teachers;

WHEREAS, it is the goal of this board to lead by example its district and share in the pain and burden financially with its people,

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED , The Shelby County Board of Education requests that the Superintendent eliminate board salaries and travel and mileage reimbursement for the school year 13-14 beginning September 1st.

NOW, THEREFORE BE FURTHER RESOLVED , the money saved from the BOE salaries be funneled to the transportation budget or to providing bonuses for school based employees.

The Merger is Complete – But the work is Just beginning

After 2 and a half years of political battles, marathon meetings, and a literal tear down and rebuild  of the system we are done.

All of the pain aside, I have a message for those who follow me. Both constituent and employee..

My pledge has always been to provide the best education at the lowest cost and in the most efficient way, Right now, I don’t believe that we have hit any of these marks. And it has been difficult. I can tell you 1,000 stories about how hard this has been.

But the reality is that we are offering less in core services and having our employees shoulder the majority of the cost reduction measures that we had to implement to balance our budget, When you start 150 million in the hole and no one is interested in giving you more money, and 80 percent of your cost is in personnel, the areas to choose from are few and far between.

I have had many reach out to me about the “fat” located in the central office. Yes, there are a few highly paid administrators but on the whole, the central office is as lean as it has ever been. I have had people message me about school closures. And the reality is that school closures save us very little money.

So the questions for me is: How do we restore the level of service that we had for bus transportation and how do we compensate our teachers to makeup for the lack of COLA, Step Increases, or Benefits cost? My goal is to get school started, work out the kinks, and look or opportunities starting in September to restore some of the money to help make things better.

It is not easy to find money but hopefully we will find some ways to get some more money back into the classrooms. I know many of you have lost faith in this system and I get it. I pledge I will do whatever I can for us to make this a year to remember. (hopefully for the positive).

Do what you do..  Educate. Motivate. Inspire.. I will do all that I can to support you. You all are heroes. Maybe the district can find some better ways to treat you that way.

Have a great first day!

Corporal Punishment – Reluctant Repeal

We knew that at some point our board would have to make our minds up on the subject of allowing corporal punishment in schools this year. This was a hard decision as I had to weigh the risk vs. reward to not only our district but to our children and principals. But when you look at the recent history and use of “paddling” you will find even in its approved form, its use was almost non-existent in the old Shelby County schools.

For someone like me who was raised on corporal punishment and have raised my kids with it (albeit very low use), it was a hard sell that we did not need it to be mandatory. Do I think it is effective? I do.. Do I think that it should be used? Yes..

However, without mandating it as punishment, it loses its effectiveness. I believe only 30 cases of its use from last year. As I spoke to principals and teachers in the system, I received the feedback that they would not use it for two reasons:

1) They believe that PBIS (positive behavior intervention) has really improved issues with children by being more proactive.

2) The other reason has to do with threatened litigation against teachers or principals if they use. Regardless if you have an opt-in/out provision, teachers or principals could be held liable for child abuse. You don’t have to go far or turn on the radio to hear an attorney sue over a light bulb falling out of your ceiling.

So the reality for me was that from a discipline viewpoint, I saw value in keeping corporal punishment. But the policy was weak and ineffective. From a risk viewpoint, I saw a potential to drain financial resources out of the district through frivolous lawsuits over paddling. That is not to say that this policy will not come back. We will monitor the metrics and see if the positive intervention is really working.

If not, we will revisit this.. and the next policy will be stronger..