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VOL. 128 | NO. 231 | Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Suburban Leaders Turn to Schools Details

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Schools board members have schools agreements with suburban leaders in Bartlett, Collierville and Millington on their agenda Tuesday, Nov. 26, a week after approving the same type of agreements with different dollar amounts with Arlington and Lakeland.

The school board meets at 5:30 p.m. for its regular voting meeting, followed by a special meeting at which the board will consider the Millington, Collierville and Bartlett agreements.

Meanwhile, Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman said his city is already working with the Lakeland school system toward a shared superintendent and other interlocal agreements.

WISSMAN

The Tennessee School Boards Association will assist in the superintendent search for Arlington and Lakeland, including joint interviews of the finalists by the school boards in both towns.

“We do have an agreement set up to where they will interview together and for the most part they will hopefully select the same one,” Wissman said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines.” “If they (the two school boards) choose to go separate, they still have that.”

Wissman was joined on the show by Germantown Schools board member-elect Ken Hoover and Millington Schools board member-elect Greg Ritter. “Behind the Headlines,” hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.

None of the suburban school boards elected Nov. 7 take office until Dec. 1 at the earliest, which Hoover said has created a kind of “Alice in Wonderland situation.”

Ritter agreed, noting he and other school board members to be were advisory members of that town’s transition committee on schools.

“On one hand, someone would say ‘That’s a school board decision,’” Ritter recalled. “And then 20 seconds later, it’s ‘You’re not a school board yet.’”

In the process, there can be conflicting versions of the agreements that began emerging last week publicly and are on their way to the suburban school boards for final votes as soon as the boards take office, probably the first week in December.

For instance, Ritter was under the impression Millington schools could include students in the Millington annexation reserve area but not in the city now. Wissman added that’s not how the agreements are playing out for legal reasons, adding, “Your attorneys are the same as ours.”

Hours after the show was recorded, Millington municipal leaders reached a tentative agreement that involves Shelby County Schools operating and keeping control of Lucy Elementary School in Millington.

The school board members-elect and suburban town and city leaders are also starting to better define what local control means.

Hoover likes the idea of the suburban school districts sharing some services among themselves. But he sees problems in a similar arrangement with Shelby County Schools.

“There is a balance issue,” Hoover said. “If the six of us are in a shared services agreement with the unified district, there’s no balance in that relationship. We are along for the ride. And that may be OK. If the six suburban municipalities are building a coalition to operate some infrastructure, they are all relatively the same size. It is a team effort.”

“No matter how much you share … each board is still going to have their own local control,” Wissman said, as he acknowledged there is some sentiment to isolate as well as have local control.

He described the sentiment in some quarters of the six suburban towns and cities as, “We want to isolate ourselves from everybody else.”

“That’s not really the case,” he countered. “The case is you have your own board. Your board still controls what goes on in your town. … Beyond that, you just work together, collaboratively with the other municipal systems or Shelby County Schools. You still have that autonomy.”

Hoover, meanwhile, said there is no difference of opinion between Germantown city leaders and the Germantown Schools board members-elect as Germantown municipal leaders were the last of the six towns and cities to continue negotiations with Shelby County Schools.

Those negotiations involve the fate of Germantown Elementary, Middle and High schools, which Shelby County Schools leaders want to keep within SCS. Germantown leaders oppose not having the three Germantown-named schools in their school system to come.

“I don’t think there’s any difference between the objectives of the administration and the wants and desires of the five people that are going to be the school board,” he said, referring to comments the day after the school board elections by Paige Michael, who lost to Linda Fisher in the race for position 1 on the Germantown Schools board.

“Those kinds of emotions are incredibly raw. I’ve been through that.”

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