The results of Tuesday’s election didn’t surprise Mike Wissman.
“This is the route that people want to go,” said Wissman, the mayor of
Arlington and a Shelby County Schools board member. “The work begins now.”
The referendum overwhelmingly passed in Bartlett with a 91 percent favorable vote. With precincts reporting in Lakeland and Arlington, the voters said yes with 88 percent and 94 percent, respectively. CLICK HERE for unofficial election results from the Shelby County Elections Commission.
Wissman’s comments came at the end of what’s been a long road for his community and five others throughout Shelby County. All six communities passed a referendum each placed on the ballot during this special election, which gives them the green light from voters to create their own municipal school districts.
In communities such as Arlington and Lakeland, that might mean having to pool resources to make it work.
“We have common students, common needs,” said Wissman about Arlington and Lakeland. “We’ll look at sharing services and/or a superintendent.”
Scott Carmichael, the mayor of Lakeland, said he’s looking forward to working with the other municipalities in the name of a greater voice for the suburbs.
“This is a chance to take over our destiny, and take control of our childrens’ futures,” he said.
Mick Wright, the chairman of the group Better Bartlett Schools and one of the lead advocates for the municipal system, said he agreed.
“I think we should co-op,” said Wright about Bartlett, which is turning over its efforts to the Bartlett Education Advisory Committee now that the election is over. “It just makes good sense.”
Exactly what will happen between now and August 2014 – the projected start date for all six municipal districts – remained unclear Tuesday night. Wright said his group would be bowing to the committee but would remain involved as needed to help smooth out the transition as much as possible. That could mean hosting debates between school board candidates between now and next election, for example, he said.
To some extent, communities will be doing over the next few months much of what they did during the fall months of 2012. A similar referendum passed last year, and school board members were elected. A federal judge then threw out the vote, which paved the way for the state to change the law in April. Communities in Shelby County scrambled, successfully, to get the issue on the ballot for the special election July 16. That gave them the time they needed to get school board members elected in November, and districts off the ground by 2014. All of this came on the heels of the 2010 announcement that former Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools were planning to merge. That merger was complete as of July 1.
Wright said to that end, Tuesday’s nod from voters is somewhat bittersweet.
“But now, the storm is over and there’s a brighter day ahead,” he said.