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VOL. 128 | NO. 216 | Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Suburban Mayors, Schools Leader Discuss Negotiations

By Bill Dries

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Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy is still “hopeful” that Germantown Elementary, Middle and High schools can remain part of the coming Germantown municipal school district under some kind of negotiated agreement between the Germantown school board and the Shelby County Schools board.

GOLDSWORTHY

“We are hopeful of continuing that conversation,” Goldsworthy said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines.” “Obviously those are schools that are well-embedded in our community and have enjoyed a lot of community support.”

MCDONALD

Goldsworthy, along with Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald and Shelby County Schools vice chairman Chris Caldwell, discussed the coming negotiations as Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson was meeting Friday with PTA leaders at the three Germantown schools he has proposed remain part of Shelby County Schools.

The program, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.

CALDWELL

Goldsworthy indicated the key to an agreement is getting past the Shelby County Schools’ use of the word “perpetuity” – as in who will be responsible in perpetuity for educating those children in unincorporated Shelby County who attend what Germantown residents call “the three Gs,” should those schools be filled to capacity with students who live within the Germantown city limits.

“Perpetuity has such finality because of the prospect of change within all of our communities,” she said. “People move. Student populations change. … And we would hope that down the road there would be an opportunity if that occurred that we might enter into conversations how we could avoid, for instance, having to build new schools. There are other ways to solve issues on over capacity.”

Caldwell said the perpetuity issue “defines the discussion” to come.

“Our responsibility is to the kids currently in Shelby County and the ones that will remain in Shelby County (Schools),” he said. “There’s another issues about representation for those children that are in the unincorporated areas because they will not have representation on a municipal school board. … If at some point those children were not able to be educated in Germantown, that would cause us to build new buildings.”

Having schools within the borders of the suburban towns and cities that would remain part of Shelby County Schools system was a possible scenario McDonald had anticipated for Bartlett as well.

“We were surprised the other way,” he said. “I’d been saying for months that the possibility existed that a couple of our schools might not be included for that very reason. If they did not allow us to keep schools that had non-Bartlett kids in it, that there were a couple of schools they might use. As it turns out, there were schools around our perimeters that those children could go to.”

McDonald would also like to see the negotiations involve 99-year leases instead of the 40-year leases recommended by Hopson in his framework for the six sets of talks that the board accepted at its Oct. 28 meeting.

McDonald again said he would want to see Shelby County Commissioners drop their part of a federal lawsuit claiming the suburban school districts are unconstitutional because they would racially resegregate public schools in Shelby County.

He also said that if the suburban leaders paid money described as going toward Shelby County Schools’ continuing costs for funding retired teachers’ pensions and benefits, he could live with the description as long as the lawsuit ends.

“It sounds like to me … some negotiations we were involved in a couple of years ago. It sounds like something the County Commission was talking about,” McDonald said, referring to a proposal that emerged in late 2012 in lawsuit settlement talks that collapsed.

It involved suburban governments giving an equal amount of funding to Shelby County Schools if the suburban governments funded their respective schools at a level greater than the combined county, state and federal funding.

“I think it’s all tied together. … My point is, let’s get the lawsuit to go away,” McDonald said. “If they are asking for some additional funds, then I want the lawsuit to go away.”

Caldwell wasn’t sure the school system could do that on its own in what will be talks with the municipal school districts that are being elected this month. McDonald thought differently.

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