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VOL. 128 | NO. 223 | Thursday, November 14, 2013

Millington School Board Meets Public

By Bill Dries

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A group of 100 citizens in Millington Tuesday, Nov. 12, had a lot of questions and angst about the coming of a Millington municipal school system.

Education consultant and former Tennessee Education Commissioner Wayne Qualls moderated the first Millington town hall meeting Tuesday, Nov. 12, on the future of the city’s municipal school district that featured the seven Millington school board members-elect.

(Daily News/Bill Dries)

The town hall meeting was the first gathering of the seven Millington school board members elected Nov. 7. They won’t take office until next month, so a lot of the questions at the Millington Civic Center Tuesday evening from a room that was mostly teachers and other educators were about decisions the board hasn’t started making yet.

They also got a brief glimpse at the negotiations underway on two levels – between the city of Millington and Shelby County Schools, and between the city of Millington and the Shelby County Commission.

The negotiations with Shelby County Schools leaders involve the consolidated school system’s plan to keep Lucy Elementary School in Millington for its plans to educate children in the unincorporated part of the county.

Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland, who lives in the area and whose district includes Millington, said he and other city leaders are committed to try to include Lucy Elementary in the new municipal school system and educate children in Shelby Forest and Waverly Plantation who now attend the schools within Millington.

When a teacher asked about Northaven, Roland said, “They won’t give us Northaven.”

He also said Millington leaders are talking to Shelby County Schools leaders about possibly including E.E. Jeeter Elementary School, which is in unincorporated Shelby County, in the Millington school system.

The group also heard about the school board’s first order of business in December, which will be to hire a superintendent, or in Millington’s case, a director of schools.

Wayne Qualls, the education consultant hired by the city of Millington, described a process of posting a job description, which the city of Millington did last month on the city’s website.

Qualls is a former Tennessee commissioner of education and former superintendent of the Hickman County public school system.

Applications are being taken for the director position, with Qualls at a still-undetermined deadline narrowing that field to four or five candidates. The school board would then do a second round of interviews before two to three finalists are presented for selection.

“You guys have been a little fish in a big pond. You are about to have your own pond,” Qualls told the teachers in the audience who were asking if their jobs in Millington schools would be guaranteed in the new system.

Several board members said they favor retaining as many of the existing teachers as possible in the new system.

Their responses began with school board member-elect Louise Kennon saying she believed that under state law the current teachers in the Millington schools had “the first right of refusal.” Then she said the teachers should be “reasonably secure” in their jobs.

And still later, she and other board members-elect said the teachers would have to apply for their jobs since the school district is a new entity.

“We want a seamless transition,” said school board member-elect Cody Childress. “We want the same teachers. We want the same students next year that we have this year.”

Mark Neal, the principal of Millington Central High School, asked if the board would hire a superintendent who would let principals run their schools, or a superintendent who would “micromanage” principals.

The questions continued about issues like how much control principals would have over hiring faculties and whether teachers would be evaluated by classroom observations and student achievement test results or by experience.

“If that teacher has 120 years of experience or two years of experience, we want the best teacher,” said school board member-elect Donald Holsinger.

Childress, meanwhile, said he believed in retaining those who had “paid their dues.”

“We will do the best job we can with the money we have,” Kennon said. “But we are not going to throw you under the bus. The state is going to control a lot of what we do.”

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