The Germantown Building Delimma

Lots and lots of buzz about the county administration recommendation for 3 Germantown Schools. Although I represent the North and Pickler represents the South, this issue is of particular importance to me.

I think that in all things that we have to keep in the forefront of our minds what is in the best interest of children, on both sides. But you cannot disconnect the money (and its lack thereof) to the children.

In the case of Germantown, you have 8 scs schools in its boundaries. If you were just to educate Germantown kids, 8 would be far too many. Too much capacity, overhead, and waste. If you were to educate all of the current children, it is a fairly efficiently run system.

1) The SCS took the position Monday night that legally, it is obligated to educate its own children and the municipalities are legally obligated its children. That is true..

2) The loss of 3000ish Memphis reserve area kids could equate to 24 million loss in BEP/county funding.. That is true

So from an SCS viewpoint and a numbers viewpoint, it made sense to take that position.  However, if you begin to interject quality of education for our Memphis reserve kids, the picture gets very muddy. If the SCS keeps GES, GMS, and GHS and vows to educate all kids, it can safely be assumed that most G-Town students will transfer to the municipal schools. By most accounts, this could create a 30-40% drop in enrollment in GHS and GMS and as much as 60% in GES.

That proposes a very interesting litmus test: Will SCS be able to provide a quality of education at least = to Germantown Municipal Districts..

I think the answer is fairly clear: Probably Not

The funding gap from the loss of so many students will result a 50 million dollar gap. To close the gap, there will be an emphasis on cutting personnel, This could result in the move to the legacy MCS staffing formula which could change the student teacher ratio again and make the classrooms larger. This could lead t o further transfer out of GHS, GMS, to the municipal district. This would lead to underutilized property in these schools and make them less and less efficient. It will ultimately affect the level of school based choice and AP programs.

Germantown has pledged to change the student teacher ratio back to per-merger levels which is considerably better that the old MCS model and to look to augment current academic programs for students.

I think that this begs the question if we are doing what is in the best interest of county students with this position. If G-Town is willing to put that much into these schools that are a majority county kids, and we cannot, we need to cut a deal to let Germantown keep them. And this is how we could get there:

1) Long term lease with the lease length directly tied to how long our children are educated. That can be forever, or whatever, but it needs to defined and locked down to protect the county kids to where they cannot just be let go.

2) The agreement cannot create a need for more county buildings to be built..

3) And you have to put your money where your mouth is on school programming. The educational experience has to remain = to the other schools under your control. You cannot create a caste system in your schools.

I am not opposed to this solution above  in Germantown and Millington.. I cannot say that my peers will agree or if the votes exist to approve such a deal. But looking at it from the quality of education perspective, not doing this causes me some pause.


Strategic Planning, Implementation, and Collaboration will fix Shelby County School Funding Problems

No fluff.. Just the facts..

Shelby County Schools have two models. One has large schools, packed with kids,, One has mostly small schools running less than 50%. One has a lower cost per pupil as a result and runs at a positive cash flow. One has a high cost per pupil and runs at a negative cash flow. The fixed overhead at most schools are the same and make it hard to scale. This is the sustainability factor.

On the revenue side, we see the loss of money to ASD, Charter ,and Municipal Schools. And due to the inability to scale our system, it always makes budget time difficult.

In other words, infrastructure is killing our system. Buildings, their condition, their location, their capacity directly link to our bottom line.

So what is the solution?

It is time to fight the battles that need to be fought and not the battles that make politicians feel good. We need a 5-10 year strategy to plan for substantial building attrition for our district. That would mean closing and consolidating schools. That will mean strategically building large schools in town to drive the cost per pupil down.  Too much of the cost per pupil is going to overhead from inefficiency.

This solution will be incredibly painful but necessary for future sustainability.


While many fight and use buildings to political advantage, they actually are an albatross around the neck of the district. Case in point, the original SCS(pre-merger) had a 5 year CIP (capital improvement plan) that saw the district investing more than 160 million in capital for SCS. This included funding for a new high school, roofs, expansion for Millington. The release of all of the buildings from SCS to municipal districts has been and will save the district 80-100 million dollars over the next 3-4 years. These costs will be borne by the municipal districts. I use that example to prove a point. Buildings cost us money. The more unusable ones we can get rid of, the better..


The biggest risk in our county to our tax rate and children is this issue. It makes sense that we bring the best and brightest from across the county to help fix the issue. That may mean participating in committees or pledging some future ADA capital. This entire endeavor directly impacts the future county tax rate. I think goodwill would go a long way in helping all of us get what we want, There has not been much of that lately. But I believe that exists on our school board..  So much we can do together.

We can fix this problem..

Expansion of High School Trade Schools (Vo-Tech) – Is it the Golden Arrow for Shelby County?

I have been giving this a lot of though lately after I have heard from so many in our community about education and what its real goal should be.

After thinking about it, it seems to me that political definitions of education like those used by the president and secretary of education do the most to set children up for failure. Not every child is going to go to college, but every adult has to eat, sleep, breathe, etc.. With that said, I believe the statement “every child college and career bound while well-intentioned, does not go far enough. I would say that the goal would be:

“Every adult who leaves our schools has a marketable skill to make a livable wage or is prepared go to college”.

Seems really simplistic when you look at it but it has some distinct differences for every child college or career ready. I think that their has been significant focus on college but as a population make-up, we need significant focus on skills. Most of our children cannot afford and will not go to college, but they still must making a livable wage or we have no chance to overcome any poverty condition.

So what is a possible answer? Creation of Regional Trade Schools

A trade school would be a high school that had its basic common core requirements but would provide a multitude of technical vocational career paths for any child who chooses to take a career path. We would strategically locate these schools in different regions of the county as part of our portfolio district. Mainly by converting underutilized high schools into trade schools managed by an appropriate appointed board.

In coordination with many of our high performing academic high schools all over the county, these schools would provide a choice that many of our students in every municipality may be interested in, including children in the ASD.

Lot’s of discussion and planning around this. But on its face it could have significant implications on the future tax base and business recruitment value proposition to the Memphis area. I plan to discuss at our retrat.


Dorsey Hopson – Superintendent for Time Such as This

Yesterday, the new 7 member board made Dorsey Hopson the permanent superintendent for the SCS. Now, everyone has an opinion on this action and an opinion on Dorsey so I am going to speak from the heart. So let’s start with the facts:

  • Our board authorized the chairman to negotiate a contract with Dorsey and make him permanent. The length of contract is still TBD and amount is TBD.

Why did we do it?

There is virtually no educator interested in running a 1.2 billion, 150,000 student school district that is virtually assured of being broken apart over the next several years. The departure of the muni- districts along with the explosion in charter schools will leave nothing but a business organization providing services.

That is why we could get no takers during the search. That is why we don’t expect we will get any takers during the next couple of years.

Dorsey is the only one that said “I will do it”.  So before everyone bashes him for lack of experience in education. Let’s look at the expected outcome of employment:

  • You work 24 hours a day/ vacation really does not exist (John Aitken referenced this often)
  • The media watches and reports your every move/you have no private life
  • No one is ever happy
  • Every decision you make is challenged and rebuked. You are consistently the face on the dart board for every complaint in the district.
  • The rules of the game are changed everyday. The definition of success always changes. And you can be assured of actual or perceived failure every day.
  • A constant barrage if union organizations constantly pushing forward their own agendas and undermining each other and the superintendent.

Dorsey is a good guy. Good skill set. He is not perfect. He is vested in our community. And by the way, he really likes being an attorney. He wants to be an attorney. But we are asking him to hold the district together the best he can while it is being broken apart.. Interestingly enough, 270K did not even draw well qualified candidate from the education ranks.  That leads me to believe that no one who is credible believes the pay is worth it.

Well, except one guy…

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.

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.