VOL. 128 | NO. 59 | Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Board to Weigh School Closings
By Bill Dries
Countywide school board members are scheduled to vote Tuesday, March 26, on the closings of four schools at the end of the current year.
And they could see additions to the agenda that put the Achievement School District’s Gestalt Community Schools charter operation in Humes Middle School with the new school year. That would also come with an end for the time being of plans for a new optional school the school board had approved for Humes at the start of the school year.
Meanwhile, school board member David Reaves will introduce and attempt to add to the agenda a resolution that could delay plans to reconfigure the school board into a 13-member board effective Sept. 1.
The 23-member board is now scheduled to slim down to a seven-member school board on Sept. 1, losing the 16 members of the old Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools boards.
But earlier this month, Shelby County Commissioners approved a plan to instead take the school board down to 13 members effective Sept. 1. That would mean the commission gets to appoint six new school board members to go with the existing seven who were elected in 2012.
Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee ruled earlier in the schools merger court case that the commission could expand the school board to a total of up to 13 members. But he also told attorneys that he would have to approve the plan. The commission resolution is on its way to Mays for approval.
But Reaves wants Mays and Rick Masson, the special master appointed by Mays, to “negotiate with parties of the consent decree … for the purpose of gaining the consent of the parties to eliminate the appointment of six additional board members in 2013.”
Instead of the appointment by the County Commission, Reaves calls on the court and all of the parties to the lawsuit to agree to leave the board at seven members effective Sept. 1 “for the sake of stability for the district for a full year.”
The board would expand to 13 members with the new district lines approved by the County Commission with the results of the August 2014 county general elections, under that scenario – with no appointments before the elections.
A majority on the commission signaled early in the schools merger process that they favored the same number of members on the countywide school board as on the County Commission, which would allow both bodies to use the same set of district lines set by the commission once a decade.
But the district lines for the expanded school board as approved by the County Commission this month are not an exact match.
District borders in four of the school board districts are slightly different than the County Commission districts to avoid incumbent board members Chris Caldwell and Teresa Jones from being in the same district and Kevin Woods and Billy Orgel from being in the same district.
Meanwhile, the school board’s latest approval of merger recommendations last week would mean a gradual move, with the 2015-2016 school year, of standards that judge teachers and pay them more on the performance and achievement of their students than by their seniority and advanced college degrees they have attained.
Administrators from both school systems who are making the merger recommendations to the board recommended a gradual start to the significant shift in pay policies. They cited a rapid move to such standards in other school systems where the money for extra pay ran out quickly and teachers topped out in terms of merit pay quickly as well.
The board indicated last week it wasn’t ready to vote on another recommendation that would have ended extra pay for advanced degrees outside of math and science unless work on those outside degrees was started by Aug. 1 and completed by Aug. 1, 2015.