This is what we wrote January 20, 2012:
This week, the mayors got a consultants’ report that said, surprise, they were right all along. But considering that they hired the former Shelby County Schools superintendent, it really isn’t too much of a surprise. This is one of those cases that has the feeling that the consultants were paid to tell the towns what they wanted to hear. In fact, back in February at a public meeting in Germantown, Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy laid out what the bedroom community needed to do to create its own school district. Her observations were parroted in this week’s report. The other thing that’s telling about Mayor Goldsworthy’s comments about the school district was that she never talked about education. It was all about politics. It was about counting votes on the planning commission to marginalize any influence by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, an objective that received warm applause from the crowd. That in a nutshell does in fact sum up the back story on the towns’ school districts. It is all about political power, not student performance. It is about isolationism, and the fulfillment of a derivative and vanilla world that shuns “the other” and clings to a community of the “right people.” We’re not suggesting that these are evil people, but they aren’t exactly noble either. As usual, we are disappointed more in Mayor Goldsworthy and Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald because they are smart enough to know how cynical their actions are. Most of all, this week, the towns finally got the rose-colored glasses view of town school districts that they have wanted. They even provided an overly optimistic (they should hope not pollyannish) view about the transfer of the schools inside the towns to the new districts.
We wrote this May 18, 2012:
Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy said she was looking for “hopefully a very rational, reasonable group of people figuring out how to do this and hopefully they would be receptive to all sorts of creative ideas about how schools might advance in Shelby County.” But then again, she was talking about the unified school transition planning committee. That same reasonableness never seemed to be applied to the suburban school advocates themselves, as the towns rushed headlong toward a future of municipal districts with a lot of talk about excellent schools but without a real plan that emphasizes academics as much as politics. Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner said that his town is working to “get education right” although there’s no consultants’ study about academic performance, teacher excellence, classroom size, and other issues affecting school success in the town districts. Unfortunately, the town school issue has turned into a political campaign in the towns where the emphasis is on getting out the vote instead of getting out all the information and creating an informed electorate.
This is what we wrote August 20, 2012:
In other words, the towns always exhibited a prideful ownership of their schools and the pervasive disconnect between financial reality and political fantasy produced an air of invulnerability and superiority that came crashing down when Memphians voted to end their double taxation for schools. Being jolted into a world where the towns’ wishes are no longer put at the top of the list of county investments has been a source of the pain for town residents and helps explain the derisive, angry nature of their comments about Memphis and now the Shelby County commissioners who represent Memphis. As usual, it all feeds the victimology that runs through so many comments by suburban politicians.
This is what we wrote November 30, 2012:
Meanwhile, the town mayors continue to say that there only concern is about the academic achievement of the children within their borders, but notably, there has been no study about how to improve student performance. There’s only been one to justify what the mayors already believed. One of the hallmarks of childish behaviors is magical thinking, and nothing defines the town mayors’ point of view more than that these days.
This is what we wrote July 29, 2013:
More than anything, the municipal school districts pursuit has been driven by fear, fictions, and suburban politics (with a strong dose of anti-Memphis venom) more than a passion for better student classroom performance or a plan to move these schools to a level where they perform at levels more commensurate with other schools where students have similar socio-economic profiles. What’s really unseemly about the municipal schools movement is the way that suburban legislators are willing to tilt the scales away from fairness and compromise with legislation that injects state government into affairs that should be decided locally.
We reflect on these previous posts as we witness the furious (albeit predictable) responses from Germantown leaders and citizens to the notion that Shelby County Schools may retain operational control of three schools in the town’s borders in order to educate students from outside that town’s borders. Of course, they’re fine if their town district educates these students, primarily because they covet the extra money, but the idea that anyone from the new district, comprised largely of schools in Memphis, would teach in the classrooms within Germantown’s borders is anathema to its civic sensibilities.
While municipal leaders have protested mightily that there was no racial motivation that drove the creation of the municipal districts, it’s pretty hard to keep up that charade with the comments made by Germantown residents on their Facebook group. There are code words and there are words that need no code breakers. They paint a bad portrait of the city, and even as Germantown elected officials pursue this issue, they should show real leadership by quelling the hysterical comments and crude statements by some of the people there. We are certain the comments don’t represent the majority view of Germantown residents (after all 64% of families there don’t have kids under 18), but as the loudest ones, they run the risk of branding the town in a highly negative way.
It’s always revealing when these kinds of debates so quickly devolve into talk about everything but students. If Germantown’s leaders are true to their word, and they are motivated only by their commitment to public education, it’s hard to see why they are so incensed over the recommendation that three schools remain in the Shelby County School District. Once again, the veil is lifted and the conversation concentrates on money – the cost of new buildings (which the city should have anticipated) and property values (which rears its ugly head as a motivator rather than academic achievement).
We’ve written often that municipal school districts are going to cost the towns more than they expect and more than their residents were told. If Germantown must build new schools within its borders to handle the education of its children, it seems a small price for the city to pay considering its loud and persistent call for its own school district.
There has been a strong element of magical thinking by these towns’ elected officials, anchored in the notion that they can create districts, get districts, and ramp up without any significant costs. In Germantown, reality has set in, and the town has an opportunity to now take the high road that it’s always been urging on the unified district.