Better Bartlett Schools changes name, focus

Better Bartlett Committee, April 2014
Better Bartlett Committee members are, from left, Mick Wright, Jaime Osborn, Mike Burns, Jason Sykes, Phillip Walker and Derek Venckus.
Photo by Carolyn Bahm

With the successful formation of a municipal school district in the city of Bartlett, Better Bartlett Schools has changed its name and is shifting its focus to other issues of concern to the city’s residents.

The name changed to the “Better Bartlett Committee” in March. better-bartlett-logo-small

The committee of six concerned Bartlett residents initially linked up through the Leadership Bartlett program and came together as an advocacy group in 2011 to explore the issue of school consolidation, assist city government and educate the community. The committee was instrumental in leading the referendum in favor of Bartlett municipal schools in August 2012 and July 2013.

Committee member Mick Wright said, “When we saw the schools issue, there was no group of citizens to fill that role as an advocacy group, to rally the community and average citizens, and to serve as an information sharing point, to watch the schools, and to help navigate parents and others through the bumps in the process.”

Wright said they are pretty happy about the establishment of the new Bartlett City Schools district. “We think and hope it will be beneficial for the students, with closer attention and supervision from teachers. With the community school district, parents will now enjoy better access to their elected [school board] officials, with more opportunities to meet and speak with them.”

Committee member Mike Burns added, “We’re excited and happy with the success of creating the new district, which rests on the shoulders of a lot of people working together. We’re proud of the people who stepped up to serve on the board and confident in the selection of superintendent Stephens to lead the district. We look forward to a spirit of cooperation with the other community districts, as well as friendly competition for good test scores.”

Now that the new municipal school district is gearing up for its first year, the group has transferred control of the “betterschools” user name on all social media networks to the district. With the group’s name change comes a broader purpose.

“Now we are looking to expand our focus,” Wright said. “The Memphis city/Shelby County government consolidation movement may be an issue we take up, one that we would oppose.”

Burns said, “We are a very action-oriented group, a small group with a lot of skills: accounting, legal, PR, marketing and sales. We are all about issues that make Bartlett better. While the school district was an education issue, economic issues may be another area we will focus on.”

Wright said they have also identified a need for a group that can host political events or forums for candidates. “We want to continue being that information-gathering source about issues and candidates.”

The group recently assisted the Bartlett Council of Neighborhoods with an informational forum for county commission candidates on April 15. The committee hopes to host similar forums during future local election cycles.

Bartlett mayor Keith McDonald said the committee is composed of a dynamic group of people with high levels of positive energy, and he’s excited about their willingness to be involved in the community.

“They have done really good things with the schools,” McDonald said. “I am looking forward to sitting down and visiting with all of them in the next few weeks to address ideas with them and share ideas with them about how they can be valuable to the community.”

Wright works for Youth Villages, and other members of the committee include Mike Burns with Home Health Care of West Tennessee, Jaime Osborn with Weichert Realtors, Jason Sykes with Lifeblood, Derek Venckus with Saint Francis Hospital – Bartlett and attorney Phillip Walker.

The group meets informally over lunch every few weeks to discuss issues in the community.

“Serving Bartlett and its citizens is what we want to do,” Wright said.

For additional information about the Better Bartlett Committee, visit the website at, find them on Facebook at, or follow them on Twitter @betterbartlett. For questions or ideas as to how the committee can better serve Bartlett, email the committee at