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VOL. 127 | NO. 136 | Friday, July 13, 2012

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

It’s All Ours

By Dan Conaway

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TURNS OUT, WE HAVE A PLAN. READ IT. If you sat down at the proverbial kitchen table – in fact, if every one of us sat down at your kitchen table – and made a top-10 list of what should be the guiding principles of our public schools, you might wonder just what we’d come up with.

Here you go:

1. The academic success and well-being of our students come first

2. Educators and staff are our most important resource

3. We have high expectations

4. We are all in this together

5. We aim to enhance our district by balancing stability with needed change

6. We desire excellent community schools and options for all

7. We believe parent engagement is essential

8. We must save where we can to fund what we need

9. We value strong leadership

10. This is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Disagreeable as we may be on this issue, it’s hard to disagree with any of those. Those are the 10 principles that guided the exhaustive, collaborative process of the Transition Planning Commission that produced, certainly, the most proactive, progressive and pragmatic plan for the success of public education in Shelby County’s history, and, arguably, a national model.

Yet, even before the plan was published or debated in final form, before it was given a chance in a single classroom, it was rejected by six suburban governing bodies and a fair share of both suburban and urban demagogues.

Given the 10 principles above, one has to wonder why.

Since every taxpayer in Shelby County is funding this plan – our plan, your plan – one has to wonder why suburban communities would add additional taxes and public debt to fund an unknown budget for plans yet made to pay for a system as yet undefined.

One would think, and all should hope, that everyone would read the plan before deciding to abandon it in favor of, well, something – anything – else.

Read the whole plan at www.OurVoiceOurSchools.org, or at least check out the Executive Summary. This is the conclusion of that summary:

“After more than eight months of research, discussions, and planning, the Transition Planning

Commission is confident that the talent and resources in this community will enable the merged SCS to achieve the vision in this Plan. The merger presents a unique opportunity to build from the existing strengths and emerging success of both systems, of which there are many. The merger also prompts this community to step back and ask, ‘Why not here?’, and adopt best practices in education from around the world. Both districts employ talented leaders, who are true experts in their fields. This merger enables these leaders to join forces to build a district that improves upon both districts today. And finally, this merger presents an opportunity for community, business, philanthropic, faith, and government leaders to unite to guarantee the success of this system, for the benefit of all of Shelby County’s children.”

For all of Shelby County’s children.

I’m a Memphian, I live in Shelby County, and we have a damn fine plan.

Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

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