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VOL. 129 | NO. 95 | Thursday, May 15, 2014

Schools Merger ‘Closeout’ Underway

By Bill Dries

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The first and only year of a single public school system in Shelby County comes to an end May 23 with the last day of school.

And the legal details of the demerger are quickly taking shape.

Leaders of Shelby County’s seven public school systems met Tuesday, May 13, to discuss the closeout procedures starting June 2 that will begin the actual demerger of public education in Shelby County.

June 2 is when the six suburban school systems get the title to the 33 school buildings that will form the municipal school districts.

Other details include when teachers and administrators of the suburban schools go on the payroll of the new school systems, as well as shared services agreements among the suburban school systems.

Shelby County Schools board members met in special session Tuesday, May 13, to finalize the new transportation contract for the coming school year, which also represents a change.

For the current school year, Shelby County Schools has operated a hybrid transportation system that combined its own fleet and contract services with Durham School Services.

In the new school year, Durham will provide all transportation services with the school system coordinating the 1,300 bus routes and 500 buses through three bell times for schools using routing software. The software includes tracking buses with GPS units on the buses.

The new four-year, $25.8 million contract in year one with Durham provides for two new bus terminals operated at Durham’s cost to go with the four existing bus lots that Durham will lease from the school system for $1 each.

In the demerger the school system will need 100 more buses from Durham, taking into account school children in unincorporated Shelby County who had been riding buses that were owned by the merged school system this school year under the hybrid model.

School board members also pushed for regular reports on problems with bus pickups, routes and schedules after problems at the opening of the current school year that board chairman Kevin Woods described as a “debacle.”

HOPSON

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and his staff are also exploring supplying at least some of the buses with Wi-Fi. It would be part of the district’s move to a “blended learning” pilot program in which students at some schools get digital devices loaded with a curriculum that allows them to continue their studies before and after the school day.

Meanwhile, the Collierville Schools board also met in special session Tuesday evening to firm up its shared services contract with the other five suburban school systems on custodial services and a shared services contract with Germantown Municipal Schools on maintenance services. In each case, the recommended contractor is GCA Services Group Inc. of Knoxville.

The agreements are still pending approval by the other school systems involved.

The Germantown school board approved both Wednesday, May 14, at a special meeting in which the topic of shared services was a major topic of discussion.

The Germantown school board voted Wednesday to accept a set of eight shared services agreements with the other five suburban school systems. In the process it reversed its decision earlier in May to go it alone and not participate in shared services plans for nutrition services, purchasing and employee benefits.

AITKEN

Germantown Municipal Schools superintendent Jason Manuel said the earlier decision had frayed the relationship among the suburban school systems to the point that he will also present a resolution at a special board meeting Monday that specifically affirms Germantown's participation in all shared services.

Manuel explained to school board members that the other superintendents told him after the earlier decision that either Germantown schools participated in all of the shared services or none of them -- "No ala carte," was how he described the decision.

Meanwhile, the Germantown Board of Mayor and Alderman approved the city’s $118.3 million budget, including $47.1 million in combined state, federal and local funding for the school system Tuesday on the first of three readings.

Several aldermen also said they would like to see the school system have more than its existing $450,000 reserve. The decision not to participate in shared services for nutrition, purchasing and employee benefits cut the reserves by approximately $80,000.

“I would encourage you to just look at bolstering your reserves,” said Alderman Mike Palazzolo. “I would just encourage you to go back and look at your budget closely – see if you can build a stronger healthier reserve.”

Alderman Greg Marcom noted that the school system got $900,000 from the Shelby County Commission this week that pays just to replace the windows on Farmington Elementary School.

“I think you’ve heard it from us loud and clear that we want greater reserves on the school side,” Marcom said. “You are on the razor’s edge now.”

Germantown aldermen also approved an $8.6 million revenue anticipation note for the school system that is to be repaid by June 30, 2015. The note includes the understanding that the amount does not go toward the city of Germantown’s maintenance of effort obligation to the school system once the state sets that level of local funding.

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