Good and Bad Manners 

This week's issue of the Flyer contains a Viewpoint article (opposite page) on the subject of the ongoing merger between Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools. The author of that piece, Shelby County commissioner Heidi Shafer, is, by her own proud assertion, a conservative Republican and one who was leery, to begin with, about the idea of consolidating the city and county school systems.

As readers of her thoughtful statement-cum-proposal will discover for themselves, Shafer has accepted the idea of school consolidation (which is now backed by state law and judicial authority) — and not just in the way one accepts, say, a spell of rough weather. She has not only looked for the silver lining, she has done her best to create one, and whether one agrees with her formula for a happy ending or not, she must be credited with devising one and thereby building not just a different future for public education in Memphis and the Mid-South but a better one.

And whatever the real wishes of the members of the Shelby County Schools board are concerning the future integration of their system with its Memphis counterpart, the members of that suburban body are meanwhile saying and doing nothing that amounts to peevish last-ditch denial. Like Shafer, they are accepting the inevitable and looking for ways to make it work for their constituents (even should that turn out to be support, overt or otherwise, for the special suburban school districts that the Norris-Todd bill will permit in fall 2013).

Contrast this with the deportment of a minority of resisters on the county commission, Shafer's colleagues — one of whom, Terry Roland of Millington, has sworn to do what he can to wreck the process of consolidation. Whether he's been berating applicants for the new unified school board (accusing several suburban Republicans among them of various forms of "hypocrisy" for disagreeing with him), branding the whole complicated consolidation enterprise as a brazen Democratic plot, or advising his critics to kiss "my entire rear end," Roland has moved way beyond the permissible norm. But give him this: His antics have been offset somewhat by a certain gonzo roguishness.

The same cannot be said for another resister, Commissioner Wyatt Bunker, who went so far on Monday as to publicly malign state senator Jim Kyle, an applicant for one of the school board positions, as "a political hack." Even Roland tried to mitigate the effect of that calumny by noting that Bunker was medicated at the time for a serious and painful back condition. It was way beyond the pale, though, and Bunker, the commission's chairman pro tem, who certainly has his constructive side, owes the long-term Democratic legislator, who is respected in Nashville on both sides of the aisle, an unqualified apology.

Roland, Bunker, and the third member of the trio of suburban GOP diehards, Chris Thomas, had earlier shown a more likable side, bestowing good wishes and compliments on Mike Carpenter, their departing Republican colleague and one whose moderate views they had resisted tooth and nail during his service on the commission.

That's the ticket, guys. Disagree but don't be disagreeable. Is that too much to ask?

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