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VOL. 128 | NO. 242 | Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hopson Says Germantown Schools Agreement is a Start

By Bill Dries

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The last of the suburban schools agreements is making its way through a set of votes that should settle who gets what schools and the end of the federal court lawsuit contesting the formation of the six municipal school districts.

HOPSON

But as the Shelby County Schools board unanimously approved the Germantown Schools agreement and school deed transfer Tuesday, Dec. 10, county schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson said the hard work is just beginning for the board.

And the division of Shelby County’s one public school district into seven districts countywide won’t be a matter of the school systems isolating themselves.

“For too long, this community has had too many divisions,” Hopson said before the vote. “Now things are going to start happening. … Now you are going to be in it, and it’s going to be harder to build something from the ground up than to put two things together.”

Hopson said Shelby County Schools will be working with the six suburban school districts on the transfer of student records and other details of the transition to a planned August opening of the new school districts. There are also open-enrollment agreements that will be ongoing.

SCS attorney Valerie Speakman said the school system will be working “hand in hand” with the leaders of the new school districts intensively over the next six months.

“This is going to be the most momentous task that this school district has ever engaged in,” she said. “That includes the combination of these two school systems.”

The remarks by Speakman and Hopson came after school board member Teresa Jones said she would vote for the Germantown Schools agreement “because the administration has indicated this is best for the children that this board represents – not the municipalities.”

“I’m not against the municipalities,” she said. “But my every vote, my every thought, is what is best for the children that remain in this district.”

Germantown agrees to pay Shelby County Schools $4.2 million over 12 years, at $355,453 a year. The Shelby County Commission agrees to drop its third-party claim in Memphis federal court contesting the creation of a Germantown Schools district.

The school board vote follows Monday’s approval of the negotiated agreement by the Germantown board of mayor and aldermen. The next stop for the pact is expected to be the Shelby County Commission, and from there, the Germantown Schools board.

It is the last of the schools agreements with leaders of Shelby County’s six suburban communities.

School board member Billy Orgel, who was involved in the talks with Germantown leaders, said the private talks explored the Germantown counteroffer of a new, six-school system for Germantown that would have included Germantown Elementary School.

Instead, the ultimate agreement stayed with Hopson’s initial recommendation that Shelby County Schools keep Germantown Elementary, Middle and High schools as part of its system because of the large number of students attending those schools who do not live in Germantown.

The agreement includes an open-enrollment provision that Hopson said Shelby County Schools will explain in greater detail to parents of students who now attend those three schools and live in Germantown.

Those students will have the option of continuing to attend those schools or to attend ones in the new Germantown Schools district. If they choose not to remain in the schools they currently attend, those positions at the three schools will become available for students across the Shelby County Schools district to attend as an optional school.

Hopson and Orgel said the arrangement is open for review as populations shift. Orgel remains concerned that the agreement for a five-school Germantown Schools system will cause “some discomfort” for approximately 500 students in the South Cordova area.

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