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VOL. 129 | NO. 146 | Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Registration Could Reflect Suburban Relocation

By Bill Dries

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When Shelby County’s six new suburban school districts register students on Tuesday, July 29, some of those systems’ superintendents will watch for changes from the numbers of students who pre-registered in the new school systems less than a year ago.

“There’s never been a year as important for everybody to show up for registration,” said Collierville Municipal Schools superintendent John Aitken. “Anything that we’ve done early enrollment wise – we’ve got good numbers. But I have watched and talked to enough Realtors out here over the spring and summer to know that the inventory of available houses is almost non-existent out here. People are gobbling them up, which means people are moving and didn’t register early.”

Tuesday is also registration day for students in the state-run Achievement School District and Shelby County Schools, which will now include schools within Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County as well as one school in Millington and three in Germantown.

(Daily News/Bill Dries)

Aitken talked about the first year of the schools demerger Sunday as the new Collierville school system held an open house at the district offices at the old Collierville High School building that drew several hundred people.

Germantown Municipal Schools district leaders cut a ceremonial ribbon Saturday in Germantown Municipal Park to mark the coming of the new school year before a crowd of more than 2,000.

Both observances featured scores of students from the new systems. The events also featured political leaders who played a role in the demerger legislation, the lawsuit in Memphis federal court and its settlement.

Aitken, who had been superintendent of legacy Shelby County Schools and at the start of the merger just before the first and only academic year of the merger (2013-2014), recalled the “twisty and turning road” to the new districts after the Memphis City Schools board and Memphis voters surrendered that system’s charter in 2011.

That led to the merger in August 2013 and then an immediate move to the demerger in which suburban voters in each of Shelby County’s six suburban towns and cities voted to form their own school systems.

Each of the suburban towns and cities voted three times, twice on the basic ballot question of whether they wanted to form the school districts and once on the sales tax increase to provide the minimum level of local funding required by state law for such a school district.

The first votes on the basic ballot question, as well as the first set of elections of school board members, were voided in a federal court ruling that held the state law creating the municipal school districts violated the Tennessee Constitution.

State law was then changed so that it applied to the entire state and not just Shelby County, which was the constitutional violation found by U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays. With that change, each of the six towns and cities again voted on the basic referendum question and again elected school board members.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell called the formation of the suburban school districts “realizing the American dream.”

“And that is local control of your public schools,” he said to the crowd in Collierville. “And nothing gets better than that.”

Germantown city and schools leaders also emphasized local control as they marked the occasion. “We were fearful. We were wondering what is going to happen to our schools and what’s going to happen to our kids,” Germantown Superintendent Jason Manuel said of the move to a merger that led into the demerger. “But today, I can tell you what’s going to happen to our kids – we are going to be exceptional.”

Meanwhile, suburban school leaders were to get computer discs Monday from Shelby County Schools officials that are their first formal and detailed look at achievement test scores for their students during the only year of the Shelby County Schools merger.

The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test scores were at the top of a busy week for the six suburban school districts before the school year begins a week later on Aug. 4.

Leaders of Shelby County Schools and the state-run Achievement School District were to also get a look at the TCAP data Monday after a preview or sneak peek in the last month.

For the new suburban school systems that debut Aug. 4, the achievement test scores are a baseline for their efforts going forward.

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