By Julie Ray
Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays ruling last week that voided one of the three state laws allowing the suburbs to begin forming municipal school districts makes it unlikely the suburbs can catch up for the August 2013 start of the school year. By voiding Chapter 905, allowing for municipal schools, the newly elected municipal school board members are, for lack of a better term, unelected.
Erin Elliott –Berry ran unopposed for school board position 2. Her desire to have municipal schools and be involved with a municipal school board stems from the fact that she has school age children in the Shelby County Schools (SCS) system.
“I am saddened by (Judge) Mays decision,” said Berry. “I have nothing against a unified school district. It’s just too big. I don’t want my child to be a number. I chose this area to live because of the excellent school system.”
Berry’s sentiment seems to be the sentiment among most of the other elected-and unelected-school board members. Danny Young beat Kevin Yates for the Arlington school board position 4. Young, a fire fighter and father of three children in the SCS system and one child who recently graduated from Arlington High School certainly feels that a municipal school system makes sense. And like Berry, it is all about the numbers.
“For Arlington,” states Young, “I feel the students are better served when a school board manages four schools rather than thirty plus schools.”
Jeff Norris beat out Bill Busler in the hotly contested position 1 race for the Bartlett school board. Both candidates ran hard, but according to Busler, it was campaign finances and the endorsements for each other of the five winning school board members that sent Norris ahead for the win. And now that the election has been voided, should the municipalities find a way around a unified school system, elections will have to be conducted all over again.
“I’ll have to run again if we get that opportunity,” said Young. “Running a campaign is taxing, emotionally, physically, and financially. But I will do it again.”
Young spoke for 100 percent of the candidates interviewed who all said that they would run again, opposed or unopposed.
The city of Bartlett was to sit down with attorneys last Monday to hash out the options. Some of the suggested options are actively seeking a repeal of the 1996 provision that disallows municipal schools and the formation of charter schools. Residents of the municipalities are hopeful that the desired outcome of municipal schools will indeed come to fruition, if not skeptical that it may not happen in the 2013 school year. And there are two more state laws that are requiring a ruling.
Meanwhile, two of the most touted issues regarding the merged school system are real estate and race. Real estate in the form of ownership of school buildings and the age old racial overtones of the predominantly African-American makeup of the city schools and the more balanced makeup of the county schools. According to Shelby County Schools, the numbers show just over 52 percent of the student population are white, and just under 38 percent of the student population is black with about 5 percent of the students categorized as Asian-Pacific Islander and
another nearly 5 percent as Hispanic. That compares to Memphis City Schools where 85 percent of the student body is black, just over 7 percent white, less than 2 percent Asian-Pacific Islander and almost 7 percent Hispanic.