Pared-Down School Board Begins to Set Goals

By Bill Dries

Countywide school board members began the process Tuesday, Sept. 3, of setting goals and a vision for the one year they will operate as a seven-member body.


And the four-hour retreat ended with a goal of working toward 100 percent literacy in reading for third-grade students in the school system.

“Something that was very specific and very measurable and something that the whole entire community could rally behind,” said school board member David Reaves, describing the goal after the session. “We’re very education focused and we’re very focused about beginning to see some positive change. We’ve had some positive change, but some really specific rallying points in terms of educational outcomes and what we focus our efforts into.”

Reading and language arts student achievement test scores were the low point for both of Shelby County’s public school systems in the last school year of their separate existences as well as the first year of the state-run Achievement School District.

The merged countywide school system, including its Innovation Zone schools and the Achievement School District, have all responded to the scores in that area with more intense intervention that focuses on building the vocabulary of students as well as increased reading time during the school day.

“The how is going to be developed by the administration,” Reaves said of the goal set by the school board. “I think what you are going to find is we are going to have significant community partner support on this one. Is it going to come with a dollar amount? Yes. But more importantly, it’s going to come with a volunteer amount in terms of people.”

Reaves’ idea is to look at groups that traditionally volunteer at the school level in other ways.

“We may look at some of our partners like our PTA and PTO organizations and say for a set number of years maybe we get away from doing a ton of fundraising and stuff and let’s focus on bringing people into the classroom and focusing on reading, literacy with children,” he said. “I think it’s going to be more people heavy. There will be some cost.”

The board also talked Tuesday about the possibility of the school system becoming involved in Head Start services through Shelby County government but the discussion didn’t yield any proposals. The possibility was raised by Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks Monday as she questioned five of the contenders for the appointment to the District 6 school board seat.

The school board increases to 13 members effective Sept. 1, 2014, when six new positions are added to the board and filled with citizens elected in the August 2014 county general elections.

Meanwhile, the six school board members held a three-minute voting meeting Tuesday to make the latest adjustment to the board’s downsizing from 23 members.

Starting with its Sept. 17 work session, the board will meet in the old Memphis City Schools board auditorium at the Shelby County Board of Education building. The board will keep the Tuesday meeting time of 5:30 p.m.

The work session is when the newest board member, Shante Avant, is expected to take her oath of office publicly and join the body following her appointment to the board this week by the Shelby County Commission.