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VOL. 128 | NO. 219 | Friday, November 08, 2013

Goldsworthy Pitches Germantown Schools Alternatives

By Bill Dries

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The Shelby County Schools board’s first look Wednesday, Nov. 6, at a specific plan by Germantown city leaders to transfer the three public schools within the city and named for it into a Germantown municipal school system indicated the school board probably wasn’t swayed.

Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has recommended that Germantown Elementary, Middle and High Schools remain in and continue to be operated by the school system when Germantown starts its own school system along with separate school districts in each of Shelby County’s five other suburban towns and cities.

Hopson’s arrangement would mean a Germantown municipal school district with five schools including one high school – Houston High – that approximately 1,000 students who live in Collierville now attend.

The first stumbling block for school board members was the idea of the school system negotiating with city leaders instead of the Germantown School Board. The Germantown School Board takes office as soon as Thursday’s election results are certified by the Shelby County Election Commission.

GOLDSWORTHY

Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy specifically proposed Wednesday to a school board committee that Germantown Schools keep all eight public schools within the city limits including the three Hopson recommended stay in Shelby County Schools. That would be the result of an interlocal agreement and 40-year leases between the two school systems, an agreement that could be reviewed at intervals of several years over the 40-year term “to consider student enrollment, facility utilization and projected growth in the geographic areas served by Germantown schools.”

That could result in new attendance zones for the existing schools and agreements on funding the construction of new schools or school additions, or the use of portable classrooms.

Any recommendation for such changes “would be subject to mutual ascent of both parties.”

“That is, the Germantown School Board could not unilaterally decide to rezone children residing in unincorporated Shelby County out of the Germantown City School System,” reads the written proposal Goldsworthy submitted to the school system.

The other option would be for Germantown Middle and High Schools to remain in Shelby County Schools but that Germantown Elementary School go to Germantown Schools under the terms of a 40-year lease.

Of the three schools, Germantown Elementary is the only one that doesn’t have a majority of students who live in the Memphis annexation reserve. But it is a feeder school into Germantown Middle and from there to Germantown High School.

Hopson cited the large number of students at all three schools who live within the Memphis annexation reserve area in recommending that all three schools stay in the Shelby County Schools system. He also said his recommendation reflected the school system’s obligation to educate children in unincorporated Shelby County who attend schools in the suburban towns and cities now but could be pushed out if the number of students who live within the borders of those towns and cities grows. In that case, Shelby County Schools would be faced with having to finance the construction of new schools, something Hopson believes the Shelby County Commission would not fund.

Hopson has also noted that the parents of those students in unincorporated Shelby County would not have representation on the municipal school boards elected this week in the suburbs.

Hopson has also been adamant that in each of the six sets of negotiations, he and school system legal counsel Valerie Speakman will be negotiating with the suburban school systems, not officials of the city or town governments.

He cites state law, which could also mean 99-year leases as opposed to 40-year leases, according to Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald.

The distinction about negotiations between two school boards instead of between Shelby County Schools and city or town leaders could quickly become a formality once the suburban school board members take office.

The Thursday school board elections involved a majority of races in which a single school board candidate was running for a position and had no opposition. So in some of the municipalities those school board members have already been talking informally with municipal leaders on a coordinated move to separate school districts that could open as early as next fall.

An August 2014 opening is the tentative target date suburban leaders have set for the start of their respective school districts.

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