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VOL. 128 | NO. 241 | Wednesday, December 11, 2013

School Board Approves Germantown Schools Agreement

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Schools board members approved an agreement with the forming Germantown Schools municipal district Tuesday, Dec. 10, that SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson said kicks off a period of even greater change for public education in Memphis.

The board voted unanimously for the agreement as well as the deed transfer for five of the eight public schools within the borders of Germantown.

Germantown agrees to pay Shelby County Schools $4.2 million over 12 years at $355,453 a year. The Shelby County Commission agrees to drop its third party claim in Memphis Federal Court contesting the creation of a Germantown Schools district.

The school board vote follows Monday’s approval of the negotiated agreement by the Germantown board of mayor and aldermen. The next stop for the pact is expected to be the Shelby County Commission and from there the Germantown Schools board.

It is the last of the six schools agreements with leaders of the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County.

“For too long, this community has had too many divisions,” Hopson said before the vote. “Now things are going to start happening. … Now you are going to be in it and it’s going to be harder to build something from the ground up than to put two things together.”

Hopson said Shelby County Schools will be working with the six suburban school districts on items like the transfer of student records and other details of the transition that leads to a planned August opening of the new school districts.

School board member Billy Orgel, who was involved in the talks with Germantown leaders, said the private talks explored the Germantown counter offer of a new six-school system for Germantown that would have included Germantown Elementary School.

Instead the ultimate agreement stayed with Hopson’s initial recommendation that Shelby County Schools keep Germantown Elementary, Middle and High Schools as part of its system because of the large number of students attending those schools who do not live in Germantown.

The agreement includes an open enrollment provision that Hopson said Shelby County Schools will explain in greater detail to parents of students now attending those three schools who live in Germantown.

Those students will have the option of continuing to attend those three schools or to attend schools in the new Germantown Schools district. If they choose not to remain in the schools they currently attend, those positions at the three schools will become available for students across the Shelby County Schools district to attend as an optional school at each of the three schools.

Hopson and Orgel said the arrangement is open for review as populations shift. Orgel remains concerned that the agreement for a five-school Germantown Schools system will cause “some discomfort” for approximately 500 students in the South Cordova area.

Meanwhile, Hopson revised his proposal for school closings the school board voted to study this past April.

Hopson is now recommending that Carver and Westwood High Schools come off the list for possible closing with the new school year in August. Northside High School remains on the list.

E. A. Harrold Elementary School in Millington is also off the list because it will be part of the Millington municipal school district.

Westwood High is off the list because Fairley High School is expected to become part of the state-run Achievement School District. ASD leaders will announce Thursday the new schools they will take in for the 2014-2015 school year. Fairley would have been the school Westwood students would have been transferred to without Fairley’s inclusion in the Achievement School District.

There are four new schools that the school system will explore closing.

Riverview Middle School could close and its student would be sent to Carver High School making Carver a grades 6-12 school.

Vance Middle School could close and its students would go to Booker T. Washington High Schools which would also become a 6-12 school.

Cypress Middle School is on the list for a possible merger into Grandview Heights Middle School.

And Klondike Elementary school could close with its students going to Vollentine Elementary School.

Eight other elementary and middle schools remain under consideration for possible closure.

They are Alcy, Gordon, Graves, Riverview, Shannon and Westhaven Elementary Schools as well as Corry and Lanier Middle School.

No school board vote is scheduled on the closings and transfers for now. The school system plans to hold three to four more public hearings to gauge community reaction to the plans for the four new schools on the list.

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