» Subscribe Today!
More of what you want to know.
The Daily News

Forgot your password?
TDN Services
Research millions of people and properties [+]
Monitor any person, property or company [+]

Skip Navigation LinksHome >
VOL. 126 | NO. 8 | Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Schools Standoff Shows Up in Cyberspace

By Bill Dries

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Email reporter | Comments ()

The legal opinions on the terms for voting on a consolidated school system are beginning to pile up.

But there are other signs of life away from the law books and centers of government that so far have defined the standoff between Shelby County’s two public school systems.

One Memphis City Schools board member and one Shelby County Schools board member began a dialogue on Facebook over the weekend.

MCS board member Betty Mallott and Shelby County school board member David Reaves discussed the controversy as part of a thread on County Commissioner Heidi Shafer’s page.

“I will just say we were not interested in doing this at all and it was a last-resort defensive move,” Mallott said during the dialogue that involved Reaves, Shafer and several other people.

Mallott was among the four MCS board members who voted against the charter surrender resolution in December.

The board was divided 5-4 on the surrender. But the board and MCS administration were unanimous in their opposition to special school district status for Shelby County Schools.

She also said the charter surrender jeopardizes two years of momentum and work on school system reforms.

“Now that this has been initiated, however, there are many consolidation proponents who see this as their opportunity,” she continued. “The threat of the special school district status created a perfect storm.”

“I would not have supported a private (legislative) act (on special school district status) to take funding from the city and I think most of us would not,” Reaves said, speaking of other county school board members. “This is about the SCS taking away the MCS ability to consolidate. Just follow the players who have gotten in the game. If there was a way out of this peacefully, I would prefer it and would like to maintain the integrity of the two school systems. However, I feel the state will have to remediate this.”

Mallott and Reaves agreed to talk more.

MCS board member Tomeka Hart listened closely as the county school board’s outside counsel, Chuck Cagle of Nashville, advised the board to begin preparing for a transition to consolidation as if the election will happen and consolidation is “inevitable.”

“He told the truth,” Hart said. “I didn’t expect that he was going to come in and cosign on what I’ve been calling the boogey man theory because he knows that things don’t happen that way.”

Reaves counters that he’s never tried to make city school students the boogey man. And he said after the session with Cagle that he’s willing to begin working on a transition while reserving the right to have problems with and oppose politically Memphis brand leadership.

“We don’t want Memphis leadership because they’ve proven, from my viewpoint, that what they’ve created is not something that’s palatable to us or the people we represent,” he said.

The NAACP joined the discussion this week. The position of the civil rights organization shows the central role the school systems have played in the general issue of consolidation for decades.

The Memphis branch came out against the metro consolidation charter proposal that was defeated on the Nov. 2 ballot. The Metro Charter Commission’s first decision in drafting a charter was to leave consolidation of the two school systems out of the document to give the charter a better chance of passing politically.

That left the NAACP with a lot of questions and ultimately problems with the way the charter dealt with the remaining issues of political power and taxation.

Memphis NAACP president Warner Dickerson, a former Fayette County Schools superintendent, said the group’s decision to back charter surrender and school consolidation was easy.

“If we are truly concerned about the children of this community, the decision is easy,” Dickerson said.

“The schools were never built for the adults. They were built for the children and all of us should be concerned about the best access to equity for the boys and girls in Shelby County, which also includes Memphis.”

PROPERTY SALES 64 151 1,493
MORTGAGES 45 105 1,152
BUILDING PERMITS 201 410 3,466