Categorized | Opinion

School Questions

school merger logoBy Brian Bloom

At the time of this writing, the suburban school’s referendum results are still 24 hours away although the outcome has never really been in doubt. (For the verified numbers log on to
The issue, of course, is simple. Do the people of Bartlett, Millington, Arlington, Lakeland, Collierville and Germantown want their own independent school systems? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes.
How will they work? That answer is still a bit murky.
Collierville, Arlington, Lakeland and Germantown have opted to hire former Shelby County School Superintendent John Aitken as a consultant through the community school process. Aitken, a popular choice to lead one of the smaller school interests will provide invaluable information to boards feeling their way to a local system to open August 2014. Bartlett, at this time, has not offered Aitken a consultant contract.
Questions about the individual community schools abound.
Multiple students attending Bartlett’s feeder middle schools currently are in Bolton High School’s boundary. Do these students get merged into Bartlett and, if so, what is the building plan to house these additional classrooms? Do students outside of the city that currently attend feeder elementary and middle schools follow their classmates or do they start over in the Memphis districts in which they reside?
Can students “opt in” to any of the independent schools from outside districts or what mechanisms will be put in place to keep this from happening? Will the city even have buildings to house current Bartlett students if the consolidated school district tries to play hardball with real estate and has the district heard the last from a potential civil rights argument claiming suburban interests are race related?
Will property such as track hurdles, band instruments and sounds systems, donated to the school through fund raisers or gifts remain in the schools in which they were intended or become the property of the consolidated system that currently has control?
Will the independent schools opt to share course studies for important, yet traditionally smaller classrooms like foreign language or AP options? Currently SCS students have a plethora of curricula from which to choose. Can smaller, independent schools offer the same diversity?
Will a community such as Lakeland come to an education agreement with Arlington to educate their children and, speaking of Arlington, will students attend via city boundaries or zip codes as many within Bartlett’s city limits attend Arlington High School?
Will the independent schools allow open transfers as is currently available in the Shelby County system where children can attend a different school if it offers coursework unavailable in the student’s home district?
Will curricula be substantially different school by school or city by city?
And what about the teachers in these schools? Does their tenure start over with a different benefit and pension package or does their seniority start from zero?
Will the independent schools opt for outside service contracts with maintenance, transportation and nutrition as a cost savings measure and speaking of costs, while residing within specific municipalities, schools remain within Shelby County? Will the county commissioners assist with a funding element and, if so, will they mandate their own appointed representation on each municipal school board?
We hope the answers exist to all of these issues and a myriad of others we haven’t touched on. We believe municipal leaders have the ability to provide a first rate education in what are unquestionably first rate communities but also recognize passion is never a substitute for preparation.
The voters have made their choice, placing a tremendous amount of faith in dozens of officials, elected and appointed. Now the real work begins.

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July 2013
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