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A trip down the Unified Interim School Board lane

On Monday (Sept. 12), the Shelby County Board of Commissioners met to appoint seven members to the Unified School Board that will govern the consolidation of Memphis and Shelby County Schools.
 Pearl Eva

On Monday (Sept. 12), the Shelby County Board of Commissioners met to appoint seven members to the Unified School Board that will govern the consolidation of Memphis and Shelby County Schools.

Last week, I had the honor of interviewing for the second time for the Unified Interim School Board. Although I wasn’t a finalist, I was one of the 100 interviewed that took over 10 hours last week, and received two votes. To apply and participate was as simple as submitting an application, and participating in a publicly held interview process. It allowed citizens the opportunity to become part of the political process without having to run for public office, which requires time and funds not readily available to the average person.

I applied for the Unified Interim School Board because many of the citizens of Shelby County, along with myself, desire a board that is reflective of the community, which includes parental representation and that one of the selected seven new members should be a parent who is capable of serving. As a MCS parent, I wanted to give insight as well as share my skills and experiences to this process. I thought I would be an asset and do a great job serving on the board.

While preparing to be considered for this process, I received a notice from MCS stating that my son’s school, Kirby Middle where he is in the 7th grade, is now a “High Priority” school.  My options are…1) allow him to remain at a failing school, 2) transfer him to another school, 3) move to another SCS district, 4) move to one of the municipalities or 5) (this requires me using a bad word, the “D” word) Up root my family, and move to Desoto County like so many Memphians have done!!! I don’t want to transfer my child or move anywhere in or outside of Shelby County.

A system as big as SCS can effectively educate individual children all over this county by breaking the system down into smaller districts, aggressively explore creative/alternative funding sources, and making all schools the type that people are willing to drive across town for. Nevertheless, I do support attending neighborhood schools, and in the meantime, my son will remain at Kirby Middle. However, it is likely he will attend a private school for his secondary education.

This second (interview) process was rushed and we received notification on Wednesday morning, Aug. 31, of the schedule and FAQ form that needed to be returned by noon on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Only to be followed by another email sent later that day requesting that it be filled out overnight. Additional emails were sent on Thursday, Sept. 1, and Friday, Sept. 2, asking for the forms. Followed by a final one sent on Monday, Sept. 5, (Labor Day Holiday) with additional questions that were due by noon the next day. This strongly suggested that there had not been enough time given to adequately prepare for the second interview process.

FAQs gave applicants an opportunity to give their insights on issues that will be addressed with respect to the transition/merger. They included some of the following:

Do you favor collective bargaining rights for teachers and other school system employees?

How do you deal with conflict?

Do you favor an Open Enrollment policy for the unified school system?

Would you keep the optional school system in place?

Do you believe the other municipalities in Shelby County have the right to form other school districts?

My response was to “The three things that SCS should do to be more effective” were:

1. Request an internal audit assessing the system’s overall operations. This is to add value, increase integrity and improve the system’s operations. It would help SCS accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes. An internal audit can serve as a catalyst for improving overall effectiveness and efficiency by providing insight and recommendations based on analyses and assessments of data and business processes.

2. Evaluate the possibilities/feasibility of dividing the system into smaller districts within one larger district.

3. Encourage/require more parental involvement, and provide more information to parents regarding curriculum and disciplinary practices.

During the interviews, I heard a lot of great ideas, and it is wonderful to have great ideas, but that is not enough. My experience as a (state) Cosmetology Board member has given me the understanding first hand of the importance of being in compliance with the law. Ideas also have to be applicable with respect to being in compliance with the law, and I would like for the newly selected members to keep that in mind as they proceed forward.

Their task will be ground breaking and history making. Good luck to the new members and God’s speed!

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