(Letter to the Editor, Germantown News, published 9/29/11)
By Dick Vosburg,Germantown
The appointments on Monday, September 12, make it clear. Our participation in the decisions to be made by the new school board is not wanted and our voices will not be heard. All that the new Shelby County School board (to better be known as the Memphis Metro Mega School Board) wants from us is the contents of our wallets. District 4 was supposed to represent us, but Venecia Kimbrow was recruited by Steve Mulroy and the pro-consolidation advocacy group Stand For Children. They believe that a 150,000 school district is a good idea; despite all the research indicating smaller is better. They will destroy what we had in Shelby County Schools, and what is very sad, they will make things worse for the former Memphis City Schools students.
According to a Utah study cited on myGermantownSchools.com: “Who controls the quality, financing, and curriculum of our schools? While many citizens intuitively feel these decisions are best made by the parents and teachers of students in the local neighborhood, under our current system, for various reasons, the power to make those decisions rests in the hands of school boards and administrators who oversee increasingly large districts. Smaller districts are more efficient than larger ones in both dollars per student and numbers of administrators per student…. Paradoxically, the larger a school district gets, the more resources it devotes to secondary or even non-essential activities.Utah’s smaller districts score better, not because the educators of big districts try less, but because the bureaucracy, which a large district must have for control, ties their hands.”
The school board is charged with three types of decisions: structure, superintendent and policy. At least 16 of the 23 members of the school board firmly believe that the current failed structure is to be retained. If you hear about chancellors or regions, don’t be misled—the only structure that will improve things pushes real decision-making and taxing authority down to local citizens. There will not be a serious discussion of structural innovation, because that would dilute power. And the whole reason for the charter surrender was to grab power and money. As Mulroy acknowledges, the purpose of the Board is not to find the best solution, “the purpose of this board is make unification work.” Regardless of what is best for the students.
Ken Hoover, a Germantown advocate for local control of education applied for appointment for the District 4 seat in order to bring that discussion to the new school board and try to find better answers. His election was blocked by Mulroy, Ford, Brooks, Bailey, Harvey, Chism, Brooks and Carpenter. Eight Memphis representatives elected the board member supposed to representGermantown. By the time we go to the polls in August 2012 and get a chance to elect someone to represent us, planning for theMemphisMetroSchool District and the Germantown Municipal School Districtwill have gone far down the road. Any hope for improvements for all the children of the county will have passed us by. No matter how strong our desire to help all students, we will be limited to creating something excellent for the children of Germantown residents.