Monday, January 31, 2011

Cash and Whalum: Uneasy Collaborators

United for the moment on the referendum issue, the superintendent and the MSC Board maverick are oil and water on much else.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Kriner Cash; Kenneth Whalum, Jr,
  • Kriner Cash; Kenneth Whalum, Jr,
“I’ll be long gone.” That was Kriner Cash’s half-serious jest in a conversation Friday night about when the end point might finally be reached in the ongoing wrangle between Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools and between the divergent ways of life they represent.

Superintendent Cash has no immediate plans to ship out — or to give up the commitment to long-term educational reform of the city’s schools that he reasserts every time he speaks publicly about the showdown between the two school systems. The quip was just his resigned acknowledgment of what everybody suspects — that whatever the results of the forthcoming March 8 citywide referendum on MCS charter surrender, a morass of litigation and cross-purposes lies ahead.

Cash was asked whether he envisions a further role with a newly consolidated city/county school system if the referendum should pass, making Shelby County Schools — or Shelby County government or mayhap some newly created county entity — the overseer of the new system.

“There’s no guarantee I would continue on,” he said. And, after a pause, “there’s no guarantee that I would want to continue on.”

Cash made his comments while attending a Friday-night reception at The Peabody for Ralph Crowder, a documentarian who was previewing an introductory video for his work in progress, “Memphis, a City Rich in Song and Experience.”

The MCS superintendent is keenly aware of the differences between the system he heads and the one that now operates in suburban Shelby County, and he has made no secret of his concerns that the several reform initiatives he has pioneered at MCS will be lost in a de facto consolidation of the county’s two school systems.

“This has nothing to do with education, just politics and power,” Cash said — echoing a statement made by numerous opponents of MCS-SCS merger, including the Rev. Kenneth Whalum, pastor of New Olivet Baptist Church and an MCS board member who was also an attendee at the reception.

Since Cash’s arrival at the helm of MCS in 2008, the relationship between the two has been decidedly on again/off again. Just now it’s in an “on” phase, with the superintendent and the famously iconoclastic Board member both in stout resistance mode vis-à-vis the proposed charter surrender.

MCS superintendent Cash (right) with videographer Crowder
  • JB
  • MCS superintendent Cash (right) with videographer Crowder
But they have frequently clashed over some of Cash’s initiatives, and, even when Cash and Whalum, along with several other speakers, shared a stage at East High School some weeks ago at a Memphis Education Association rally against the surrender proposal, their differences surfaced.

On that occasion, Whalum concluded his remarks by expressing two preferences — first, that the assembled MEA members vote no on the March 8 referendum, and, second, “Let’s clean house at Memphis City Schools from top to bottom. By any means necessary.” Asked about that statement on Friday night at the reception, Whalum did not shy away from it, or its implications concerning Cash. “Yes, I’ve raised questions as to whether we have the right superintendent,” he said.

The current collaboration between the two is decidedly ad hoc, and the uneasiness of it surfaced during an audience discussion after Crowder had showed his introductory video. In the course of suggesting that the fully developed and revised project should include a major emphasis on the Memphis schools, a smiling Cash ventured a quip about his sometime nemesis Whalum, who, as an interviewee, had figured prominently in Crowder’s video.

“On the light side, I think it had way too much Kenneth T. Whalum,” As the audience laughed, Whalum added his own jest: “And that was the edited piece, man!”

At the last MSC Board meeting, Whalum had announced as “new business” three resolutions that he wants the Board to act on at its next meeting. One would require the Memphis Urban Debate League, a group with which MSC has partnered, to furnish the Board with a copy of its bylaws, something which was promised but has been long deferred. That, acknowledged Whalum Friday night, reflected his annoyance with the organization for scheduling a series of debates among Memphis high schoolers on the forthcoming charter-surrender referendum.

“They’ve got an agenda, no doubt. And, besides, they owe us those bylaws,” said Whalum.

A second Whalum resolution asks the Board to demand an “immediate tender” of the $57 still owed MCS by the City Council. And his third resolution would request, by way of providing for “post-surrender” closure, itemized reports on activity relating the pending Gates Foundation grant to MCS, a detailed summary of suspensions and expulsions in city schools; and an accounting of the rate of pregnancy in the system.

His lumping the pregnancy and suspension/expulsion figures in with the Gates Foundation issue (which relates to the whether a promised $90 million grant would continue in the event of a merger) is indicative of the fact that Whalum still intends to press internal MSC issues that could be unflattering and/or nettlesome to Cash.

The superintendent made it clear Friday night that he believes the reported figure of 90 pregnancies among students at Frayser High is misleading and “way off.” He said only 10 or so currently enrolled students were known to be pregnant, although another 47 had taken part in a voluntary counseling program for students in the system.


Friday, January 28, 2011

VIDEO: Herenton, Others Weigh in at Meetings on School Merger

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 8:02 AM

Public interest in the forthcoming March 8 citywide referendum on the merger of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools continues to mount, with multiple meetings on the subject occurring on almost a nightly basis.

In addition to a public forum conducted Thursday night by the Shelby County Schools Board, two “town meetings” were held under the auspices of Shelby County Commission members. One, at Hollywood Community Center, sponsored by Commissioner Henri Brooks, featured an array of speakers in favor of the merger, including former mayor Willie Herenton. Another, at Snowden School, sponsored by Commissioner Melvin Burgess, featured MCS president Freda Williams and others, addressing the possible complications of the proposed merger.

Former Mayor Willie Herenton at Hollywood:

MCS Board president Freda Williams at Snowden:

Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism at Hollywood:

Memphis Education Association president Keith Williams at Snowden:

Thaddeus Matthews on black and white:

Jeff Warren on differences between the two systems:

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mayor Warns Off Legislative Efforts to Obstruct MCS Referendum as “Contemptible”

Insisting that only Memphians should take part, Wharton says, “ I detest…any bill, any law, any device, anything that gets in the way of the right to vote .”

Posted By on Thu, Jan 27, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Mayor Wharton urging Memphians vote on March 8.

Making his strongest statements yet on the subject of the forthcoming citywide vote on surrender of the Memphis City Schools charter, Mayor A C Wharton used words like “detest” and “contemptible” in expressing his opposition to pending state legislation aimed at curbing Memphians’ sole right to decide the issue.

Meeting with reporters after delivering his formal State of the City address to an overflow audience in the lobby of LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, Wharton said, “Anything that gets in the way of the vote, I am just unalterably opposed to that…The right to vote is o dear to this city. People marched, people went to jail, and some died across this country. Once that train leaves the station, once you tell the people they’re going to have the right to vote on something, he or she who gets in the way of that acts with great peril. I detest that — any bill, any law, any device, anything that gets in the way of the right to vote.”

Continuing, the mayor said, “Ultimately it should be decided by the people, and absolutely nothing should get in the way of that. When the Memphis City Schools said, let’s let the folks vote on it, that is the law. Now, it is not going to go down well to changes the rules in mid-stream. That’s going to be hard to explain as to why a law that has served 94 counties well for some reason is not a good law for the 95th county. That’s going to be very difficult to explain.”

Asked if he was defending the Memphis-only aspect of the March 8 referendum, Wharton said, “That is correct…That, by the way, was not something that the folks of MCS came up with…That’s been on the books for many many decades…It’s worked fine, and it would be contemptible to change it at this stage.”

Wharton promised that at some future point before the referendum, he would offer some guidance. “I do have an opinion, and that opinion will be expressed clearly before the vote.”

In addressing the subject during his State of the City remarks previously, Wharton had said, “Memphians must have their say in their children’s future, and when early voting starts on February 16, you must take the lead in having your voice heard.” He said he intended to bring in “experts” in the process of consolidation” to insure that if it is the will of the voters, it can be done….. These are the moments that rewrite our city’s history.”

The key elements of any transition would be to make sure “that the education of no child will be disrupted because of the transition and that we will not jeopardize the resources from the Gates Foundation or The Race to the Top,” Wharton said.

In the conversation with reporters, the mayor pointed out that, during the course of his travels to and from Paris for a conference this week, he had talked with Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash by telephone about the $57 million still owed by city government to MCS. The matter had not been dropped, Wharton said. “It would be so hypocritical to profess to care so much about the schools and then say, ‘I’m not gonna pay that money’” It’s just a matter of getting back together.”

UPDATE: Not long after Mayor Wharton had made his statements in Memphis, state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) was quoted in Nashville by The Commercial Appeal’s Rick Locker as saying he intended to try to facilitate legislation blocking attempts to merge the Memphis and Shelby County school systems “for a year or something.”

Simultaneously, Senate Republican leaders scheduled meetings of the Senate Finance and Education committes for next Wednesday so as to vet bills designed to counter MCS-SCS merger and fast-track them for immediate floor action when the legislature reconvenes on Monday, February 7.

That would include a bill by state Senator Mark Norris of Collierville that would call for a delayed referendum and one that would require dual voting by city and county residents, as well as a measure proposed by state Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown to enable the state to take over MCS schools (as “non-performing” schools) in the event of a positive merger vote on March 8.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The School Debate Goes Prime Time

Posted By on Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Tomeka Hart and David Pickler pair off in WMC-TVs Wednesday night debate.
  • Tomeka Hart and David Pickler pair off in WMC-TV's Wednesday night debate.
Headlining a plethora of meetings, forums, colloquies, and what-have-you on the ever-simmering subject of the schools are three public debates scheduled for this week, two of them televised.

On WREG-TV, News Channel 3, there is a Tuesday night encounter featuring two opposed teams — MCS Board member Martavius Jones, State Representative G.A.Hardaway, and city councilman Shea Flinn for charter surrender; and Shelby County Schools chairman David Pickler, the Rev. La Simba Gray, and Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy opposed.

On Wednesday night, on WMC-TV, in a program held at Playhouse on the Square and co-sponsored by the Memphis Rotary Club (followed up by a "town hall" event), Pickler and MCS Board member Tomeka Hart are paired up, taking the anti- and pro- sides, respectively, on charter surrender.

And on Thursday, a “Town Hall” meeting at Snowden School will feature Shelby County Commissioner Melvin Burgess, City Council member Jim Strickland, and MCS Board member Jeff Warren in an exchange on the charter-surrender and special-school-district issues.

The number of such meetings is fast proliferating, to the point that at the regular Memphis City Schools Board meeting Monday night, outspoken member Sara Lewis, addressing a proposed series of joint MCS-Memphis City Council meetings, was moved to expostulate: “Everybody understands. I’m Sara, and I’m just going to be very, very blunt about what I’m going to do and what I’ not going to do. I just can’t run all over Memphis.”

Lewis did weigh in for some sort of “structured meeting and civil exchange” with the Council, but she and other members of the MCS Board expressed themselves as wary of initiatives from the Council or the Shelby County Commission or SCS or wherever — at least until the Board was able to develop a coherent approach of its own.

MCS member Patrice Robinson underscored the point: “We need [to develop] a common, single message, and we need to do it yesterday.”


Jeff Warren Makes Another Try at an MCS-SCS Compromise

Posted By on Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 9:41 AM

Dr. Jeff Warren
  • JB
  • Dr. Jeff Warren
If at first you don’t succeed…Well, if you’re Dr. Jeff Warren of the Memphis City Schools Board, you keep trying, Charlie Brown-like, even long past a time when everybody else has lost count of your previous efforts and even after some of your fellow Board members have lost patience with you altogether.

Warren has been conspicuously looking for the Golden Mean of compromise from the very beginning of the current crisis, which began with the MC S board’s anxiety over the prospect of Special School District status for Shelby County Schools and has now entered a phase in which the anxiety is on the county side concerning the imminent forced consolidation of the two school systems.

In the minds of many supporters of the MCS charter surrender referendum, Warren’s several proposals up until this week had seemed either too favorable to county interests or too incapable of bridging the gap between MCS and SCS.

At a recent MCS “work session,” Board colleague Stephanie Gatewood chided Warren for his many solo efforts to bridge the gap between the two systems. "This is the fourth time you’ve tried to recreate, revise, or re-edit,” she told him, pointing out that so far neither of the contending boards had signed on to one of his plans.

For the record, Warren now has a new plan — his fifth, it would seem — which he put forth to the MCS Board Tuesday night. Like the last one, this one contemplates a variant of a previous plan which had emanated from the SCS board but was rejected by a majority of MCS board members.

Warren acknowledged the affinities between his new plan and the SCS precursor, including the hiring of an expert “in school governance,” the appointment of two parallel slates of parents, administrators, and other citizens by the two boards to create a common “team,” and the preparation of a referendum.

But there were “a number of changes,” as Warren said Monday night. Instead of the several alternative possibilities that might have been recommended under the SCS plan, Warren’s comes with a specific recommendation — for the model he vented last week, a consolidated district broken down into five sub-districts governed by a chancellor. Referendum language to that end would be agreed on “no later than July 1, 2012.”

And the most significant alteration in previous formulas — his own and that of the SCS alike — is that Warren’s new plan would proceed regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming citywide referendum on MCS charter surrender, scheduled for March 8, or whatever counter-legislation might emerge from the General Assembly, including creation of an SSD for Shelby County Schools.

As before, the vote on Warren’s contemplated referendum would be countywide. But the kicker is that if the referendum should fail, “Shelby County Schools will assume control of Memphis City Schools.”

That provision might assure Warren of a friendlier hearing than any of his previous plans — as “new business” Monday night, it won’t be discussed for action until the Board’s next regular meeting — but it may already have been overtaken by events.

The newest development is a plan said to be under active discussion by representatives of several of the county municipalities, sidestepping the either-or alternatives of consolidation and Special School District status with a new formulation that is essentially an SSD by another name. That would be the creation of a network of municipally operated school systems.

This alternative is under active consideration in Germantown, Collierville, Bartlett, and Arlington — though, since it would be supported by new tax levies, it might prove too burdensome for other suburban municipalities. And unincorporated portions of Shelby County would apparently be left outside the structure (though fee-based loopholes might be created allowing residents access to a given municipal system).

Legislative sanction would be needed for such a plan, as for special school districts, and one of the unanswered questions is whether currently existing school buildings and other infrastructure are the rightful property of the county or the state and whether they would need to be purchased.

If outright consolidation of the city and county systems should occur, a consensus is building toward some variation of the five-sub-district formula like that proposed by Warren. Among the other proponents of such a system are Memphis city councilman Shea Flinn and former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton.

Even state Senator Mark Norris, the GOP majority leader of the state Senate and the author of legislation designed to avert the consequences of an MCS charter surrender, has expressed himself as being open-minded to some such formula (though he also foresees it being directed by "joint boards of control."

And David Pickler, the SCS board chairman whose call for new SSD legislation was the catalyst for the current crisis, has said that such an outcome would be preferable to other consolidation formats.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

MAD AS HELL: Bad Luck, Bad Night as We Lose Olbermann

Posted By on Sun, Jan 23, 2011 at 8:42 AM

Keith Olbermann stunned viewers Friday night in announcing that to be his final show. It was the briefest of good-byes, with no details of the circumstances leading to the shockingly abrupt farewell.

Unabashedly liberal, Olbermann insisted on reporting facts, modeling his style after legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow, who stood up to Senator Joe McCarthy, the fanatical communist hunter of the 1950's. He even borrowed Murrow’s closing: “Good night and good luck.”

In his nearly eight years on MSNBC, ,the host of “Countdown” was the first in the media who had the temerity after 9/11 to criticize George W. Bush and help charter the course for others in the mainstream media to also challenge Bush. He gave voice to some at his own network, as well as countless viewers, by demonstrating a style that could be simultaneously over-the-top and elegantly intellectual to demonstrate a righteous anger at the constant barrage of lies and propaganda perpetrated by the right wing, particularly on Fox News.

After it became obvious that the WMD tale promulgated by Bush to lead us into war was a complete and total fabrication, he read one of his many stem winding commentaries, which became legendary, and punctuated it by looking at the camera and stating, “You, sir, are a liar!”.

Olbermann hosted the top rated news show at the network so it wasn’t poor ratings or lack of ad revenue that resulted in his expulsion. For eight years his passionate dedication to the profession of broadcast news led to a string of other liberal shows on the network hosted by Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell. Even politically ambidextrous types like Chris Matthews displayed responsiveness to liberal viewers and their concerns. Ratings for the network and the prime time news block were never higher. While it might have been just a simple parting of the ways, Keith Olbermann’s sudden exit from television looked suspiciously like something other than good business and good broadcast journalism.

Although so far unsubstantiated, informed speculation has so far abounded that the ouster was triggered by execs at NBC to assuage the demands of Comcast ownership in advance of their takeover. Merely two days earlier, Comcast’s historic proposed merger with NBC Universal won approval from the FCC and Justice Department, clearing the way for the largest U.S. cable company to combine with a national broadcaster. It is easy to imagine the new right-wing honchos at Comcast as being unwilling to stomach Olbermann’s in-your-face displays of the cold, hard, truth.

It is well understood in the corporate media world that Comcast chief, Brian Roberts, is a political über-conservative who served as co-chairman of the 2000 Republican convention and allegedly achieved Bush Ranger status for having raised at least $200,000 for George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. It was clear that,t from his new perch as CEO, Mr. Roberts would not easily tolerate an employee who was as brazenly critical of Bush and the Republican Party as Keith Olbermann. So it is no great leap to imagine Roberts considering it his patriotic duty to destroy the only foothold of liberal-oriented broadcast news on television.
Olbermann’s swift departure by NBC/Comcast should serve as a wake-up call, for progressives. They could soon find themselves systematically silenced, just like Olbermann, with no voice for their political interests. While Conservatives have built a vast media infrastructure—from newspapers, publishing houses, and ownership of 90% of AM radio stations to a major TV network serving purely Republican Party purposes- progressives have treated the media as a low priority.

In time, unless liberals work to build media counterparts to the ever increasingly popular personalities on Fox News and to talk radio titans like Rush Limbaugh, their voices will be no more than cries in the corporate right-wing wilderness. The mainstream media in America is now held by six corporate conglomerates—- Westinghouse/CBS, Walt Disney/ABC, News Corp/FOX, Time-Warner TBS, Viacom, and GE/NBC Universal. Not a liberal outfit in the bunch.

This latest purchase of NBC by Comcast and the elimination of Keith Olbermann are prime examples of the inexorable movement of the nation toward a feudal Corporatocracy maintained, in large part, by complete mass media control.

“Good luck” is right. As a free press slowly disappears and dissenters become voiceless, we will need it.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Be 'Em!: City Schools and County Schools Prepare to Trade Places

Posted By on Sat, Jan 22, 2011 at 12:38 PM

This is what you call an anomaly.

The latest development in the Memphis suburbs’ resistance to the automatic school-system consolidation that would occur with the success of a referendum to dissolve Memphis City Schools is this: Several of the outer-Shelby municipalities — Collierville, Germantown, Bartlett, and Arlington specifically among them — are actively considering creating their own school systems.

Legislation is being hatched in the Tennessee General Assembly to this end, and officials of all the cities named, and perhaps other suburban entities, are looking into the concept of a municipal-school network.

An anomaly, we said. Nay, an irony: If the project, which would involve the municipalities having to levy taxes on their residents in order to purchase existing school structures from Shelby County and to augment operating expenses, goes forward, and if the March 8 referendum of city residents should, as expected, authorize the dissolution of MCS, the current city schools would have traded places with the current county schools.

As things stand now, the urban network Memphis City Schools, technically a special school district, is funded by Shelby County but receives a substantial sum also from the City of Memphis — some $78 million annually, which, however, has been jeopardized in recent years by the Memphis city council’s reluctance to pay it, even in the face of a court order. Otherwise, the county schools and city schools both receive their funding from Shelby County government, by state law the ultimate authority responsible for administering public education.

But if the MCS charter goes, the city schools become the charge of whatever Shelby County school system remains and the direct and sole responsibility of Shelby County government. In effect, they become the county schools, while, if the separate municipal-school network in the outer county (a special school district by another name), goes forward, the county schools in effect become city schools.

Both systems will continue to be funded by Shelby County government (supported by taxes from both city and county residents), but the municipal network of schools will also draw heavily on those entities’ “urban” taxpayers, in the manner of MCS at present. Meanwhile, Memphis taxpayers will be off their own extra hook with the passing of MCS.

To repeat: the city schools will be county schools, and the county schools will be city schools.

How’s that for a Thought of the Day?

Or, to put that another way: If you can't beat 'em, be 'em!


Friday, January 21, 2011

County Attorney Punts Roland Charges on Alleged Gatewood Deal to D.A.'s Office

Rayne finds no basis to investigate or adjudicate charges of County Commission vote-trading on interim appointment issue; MCS Charter vote involved

UPDATE: Brooks also wanted investigation.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 21, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Stephanie Gatewood; Terry Roland
  • Stephanie Gatewood; Terry Roland
Shelby County Attorney Kelly Rayne, in a lengthy response to a formal complaint from County Commissioner Terry Roland, found no basis for investigating — or ruling on —vote-trading allegations made by Roland concerning Memphis City Schools board member Stephanie Gatewood.

In a sworn statement dated January 5, Roland had made several charges to the effect that Gatewood had been involved in conversations with unnamed county commissioners in which they allegedly offered to vote for her as an interim state House member if she would agree to vote to surrender the MCS charter.

On December 20, when the MCS board voted 5-4 to call for a referendum on the dissolution of its charter, Gatewood voted with the majority. In the discussion beforehand, she alluded to unnamed persons who attempted to “force my hand” on the surrender vote but said, “I am not bought and paid for,” and insisted she had not been influenced in her decision.

She seemed to refer to elected officials of some sort but did not, as indicated by Roland in his statement, specify them as having been “County Commissioners.”

And, at the time, her remarks were widely interpreted as being directed at efforts to persuade her to vote against charter surrender, not for it.

Rayne said she had reviewed Roland’s six-point complaint by four applicable standards, the Shelby County Code of Ethics, the county charter, the state Open Meetings Act, and such other state laws as might be relevant and concluded that “the allegations mentioned in your sworn complaint, if determined to be true, do not constitute a violation of any provisions” relating to these standards.

The county provisions related only to financial inducements, Rayne said. The state Open Meetings Act did not apply because the allegations did not directly involve a meeting on which a vote was taken. As for state laws in general, Rayne sent the complaint on the office of District Attorney General Amy Weirich for such action as she might consider appropriate.

The District 98 state House seat for which Gatewood was a candidate was eventually won this week by another aspirant, Antonio “2-Shay” Gatewood, who defeated Gatewood and two other candidates in a special Democratic primary.

Since there was no Republican candidate, the county commission had resolved on December 20, the very day of the later MCS vote on charter surrender, not to name an interim appointee just then to the seat, vacated by the death in November of the long-term incumbent, Ulysses Jones, but to confer the appointment later, after the Democratic primary had determined a winner.

On that understanding, Parkinson will presumably be named interim appointee to the seat at the commission’s forthcoming Monday meeting. On March 8, in a general election in which he will be unopposed, he will formally win the seat.

Meanwhile, Roland’s charges, rebuffed by Rayne, remain to be dealt with — or not — by the D.A.’s office.

In the statement submitted by Roland, no sources for his charges are directly identified. They are referred to by such locutions as: “”several members indicated, ” “phone calls from several individuals,” “a member of the Memphis City Council,” and “an anonymous female caller using a blocked number.’

Asked on Friday to identify the individuals in question, Roland declined to do so but said, “I’ll tell the District Attorney’s office everything I know.”

An alternate scenario in Roland’s complaint has it that several members had urged him to join them in voting for Gatewood, who was supported by commission chair Sidney Chism, in return for Chism’s vote to support an override of a veto by County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

The mayor had vetoed a commission measure restricting his ability to impose a uniform Internet Technology unit on the several agencies of county government. Chism did end up voting with seven other commissioners to override the veto but, when contacted, denied having any conversations with fellow commissioners that involved vote-trading on any issue.

Chism added, “I don’t believe any of this that he’s saying against Stephanie Gatewood, and it sounds to me like he’s trying to implicate fellow commissioners on his own side of the issue.” (Roland, too, had voted to override Luttrell’s override.)

Gatewood herself could not be reached for comment on Friday.

UPDATE: Commissioner Henri Brooks also made a request of County Attorney Rayne for an investigation of "alleged vote tampering involving two (2) sitting Shelby County commissioners."

In a letter to Rayne dated December 30, Brooks referenced the "December 20 commission agenda appointing an interim State Representative for District 98 {and} subsequent deferral of said resolution...."

She went on: "Specifically, I am requesting a full report of our investigation regarding the question of who in this Commission office knew of the alleged vote tampering in the Stephanie Gatewood mater (Gatewoodgate), when did they know it, how did they know it and and what did they do?"

Unlike Roland, Brooks cited no allegations and made no accusations in particular.

Her final paragraph included this statement: "As a member of this body....this situation raises the issue of the integrity of the interim 98 State Representative seat appointment process. My primary concern is that my name shall not be a part of any of the alleged improper influence voting...." And Brooks repeats the term "Gatewoodgate," evidently her own coinage.

On Friday, January 21, the same date as her response to Roland, Rayne addressed Brooks with a similar disclaimer to the one she gave Roland, a significant difference being that she makes no reference to passing Brooks' complaint on to the District Attorney's office:

"Based on the statements in your letter, there is insufficient information to make a finding as to any possible violation of he County Charter, the Shelby County Ethics Ordinance, or other County policy. In the event you have additional allegations about possible violations of any of these County provisions that need to be reviewed by this Office, please provide a sworn complaint with reasonable details regarding the referenced matter."


"2-Shay" Wins District 98 House Seat, Will Take Office Next Week

Posted By on Fri, Jan 21, 2011 at 7:41 AM

Antonio 2-Shay Parkinson
  • JB
  • Antonio "2-Shay" Parkinson
Antonio “2-Shay” Parkinson, a major figure for the last several years in the political and civic affairs of north Memphis, Frayser, and Raleigh, will get to represent the area in the Tennessee General Assembly as of next week, having won a special Democratic primary election Thursday to fill the state House of Representatives District 98 seat.

By prior agreement to appoint the Democratic primary winner (there being no Republican candidate), the Shelby County Commission will designate Parkinson as the interim successor to the late Ulysses Jones at the commission’s regular Monday meeting. Parkinson, who will hit the ground running when the legislature, now in recess, reconvenes on February 7, is destined to be formally elected in the special general election on March 8.

Bad weather and what has become a pattern of low turnout for special elections kept the primary vote low. Complete results from all 15 precincts showed Parkinson with 353 votes, Stephanie Gatewood with 143, Brenda Oats-Williams with 110 and Jannie Foster with 18.

Ex-Marine Parkinson is a firefighter like his predecessor and is a member of the North Memphis Roundtable, an activist group which has included numerous influential figures on the Memphis political scene, including the late Rep. Jones.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Brief Peek at The Flap Over Cohen's "Big Lie" Remarks

Posted By on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 12:55 PM

The media (national as well as local) and various politicos continue to make an issue of Rep. Steve Cohen’s “Big Lie” remarks, delivered during House debate on repealing the federal health-care bill, specifically in relation to the way congressional Republicans chose to characterize the bill.

Here is a sample of the reaction, in an interview of Cohen by John King of CNN:

For the record, too, here is Cohen’s latest public statement on the matter, as of 1-20-11:

“There has been considerable media attention regarding comments I made during Special Orders on the House floor as part of a colloquy Tuesday evening. While I received no comments or responses from my colleagues on the floor at the time or, for that matter from anyone until midday on Wednesday, someone posted a small portion of the speech on the internet. Taken out of context, I can understand the confusion and concern. In speaking about the Republican message of “government takeover of health care” that has been drummed into the heads of Americans and the media for more than a year, I referenced the non-partisan, Pulitzer prize-winning judgment that named the Republican message as the '2010 Lie of the Year.'

“While I regret that anything I said has created an opportunity to distract from the debate about health care for 32 million Americans, I want to be clear that I never called Republicans Nazis. Instead, the reference I made was to the greatest propaganda master of all time. Propaganda, which is called “messaging” today, can be true or false. In this case, the message is false.

“I would certainly never do anything to diminish the horror of the Nazi Holocaust as I revere and respect the history of my people. I sponsored legislation which created one of the first state Holocaust Commissions in America and actively served as a Commission member for over 20 years. I regret that anyone in the Jewish Community, my Republican colleagues or anyone else was offended by the portrayal of my comments. My comments were not directed toward any group or people but at the false message and, specifically, the method by which is has been delivered.”

The Norris Interview II: The Senator Gives His Explanation of Why County Residents Should Vote on the MCS Charter Issue

Posted By on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 10:19 AM

State Senator Mark Norris
  • State Senator Mark Norris
(Below are key excerpts from a Flyer interview with state Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) conducted in Nashville in the course of last weekend’s gubernatorial-inauguration events there. These portions are an extension of a previously published report on that conversation with the state Senate’s majority leader.)

On the difference between geographical voting restrictions in 1996/97 and those of today.

The background: In 1996 a court order required that the Board positions for the Shelby County Schools be filled by popular election rather than through appointment by the Shelby County Commission, as had been customary. In commission debates about determining g the voter pool, Norris, then a commissioner representing suburban Shelby County, argued strongly that it would be unconstitutional and inappropriate for city voters to take part.

Inner-city commission members, like Julian Bolton, argued that, since residents of Memphis paid taxes that helped subsidize the county schools, they should be represented by district positions on the Board then being created and should be allowed to vote in county school board elections. Ultimately, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that only voters in the school district in question should vote and be represented on the county school board.

A key sentence in the Court's decision was this one:

“The…problem…is the issue of whether the decision to expand the electorate to include out-of-district votes dilutes minority votes. Such a case would be presented, for example, if a city’s electorate was expanded to include white suburban or rural areas in order to prevent a black majority in an urban area from controlling their own local government.“

Since Norris now proposes that all county voters should take part in a referendum on the fate of the Memphis City Schools charter and has introduced pending legislation to that effect, he has been accused of hypocrisy. The following paragraphs constitute an answer to his critics:

Norris: They’re ignorant of the law. That’s not Mark Norris’ law….That’s the federal law. What I said then is equally true today. It’s derivative of Baker versus Carr. The analysis goes thus: In a referendum, which is not your routine commission, council, or legislative election…referenda in the eyes of the law have a special status. The question the court, if called upon to do so, asks, is, ‘What is the relevant jurisdiction?’ Quote unquote.

They do an analysis. [The late federal] Judge Jerome Turner did this is in the district court case in 1996. Board of Commissioners vs. Burson. Because at that point we had been left with the task of drawing the voting districts for the Shelby County School System after the law had changed, to elect the commissioners. We used to — the county commission previously had appointed them.

The law changed. The former commission required seven vacancies, or whatever…..We were tasked with the responsibility before the next general election to draw the voting districts. Julian Bolton and I came up with a process. He drew Plan B that was countywide, and it sort of looked like oven spokes or slices of pie. I think mine was Plan C. We agreed to go to court. To do so we adopted his plan. We adopted the countywide plan that people might talk about today.

We went to court. That plan was struck down as unconstitutional — on the grounds that, in a referendum …they did an analysis of the cash flow, the funding, the common programs, or lack thereof, the students, the system, and the court found that in order to meet the mandates of equal protection as enunciated in Baker vs. Carr, that the law protects the rights of the minority, and it does this in this case by avoiding what the court called ‘debasement.’

I can deprive you of your right to vote in several ways. It’s not just ‘one man, one vote.’ If your vote is so diluted as to be worth less than [another] vote, the court will look very carefully …That’s why the plan we had, to let everyone in the county vote, was struck down as unconstitutional, and I’m submitting to you that that’s what would happen today if the reverse is true — if you only allow one jurisdiction to vote where there are two relevant jurisdictions at stake, it’ll be struck down as well.

Norris was asked: Isn’t that a paradoxical position (in light of the court statement quoted above)?

Norris: You have to get your head around that. It’s an inversion, but it’s the same principle…
I understand that there’s an Attorney General’s opinion dealing with who is eligible to vote under [Section] 502, and the Attorney General says, well, Memphians are eligible. The Attorney General’s opinion of January 10 does not say “and no one else.” I can show you. The rule of books is that, well, 502 is silent as to who gets to vote. It just says a majority of those voting in the referendum. That’s Section 502, and that’s the only one now that, as I understand it, Memphis City Schools is relying on….

The Senate Bill 25 that I’ve introduced [providing for dual city and county votes] needs to proceed forward. That’s the current law. It is the law. People need to realize this.

Go here for Part One of the Norris interview..


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's Official: Election Commission Sets School-Charter Referendum for March 8

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 10:59 PM

The SCEC board was relaxed for its key moment.
  • JB
  • The SCEC board was relaxed for its key moment.

In a saga whose milestones have most often been marked by conflict, stress, and high drama, a key moment occurred Wednesday afternoon with such minimal sound and fury that it almost seemed an anti-climax.

In reality, however, the January 19 meeting of the Shelby County Election Commission to formally set a date for a citywide referendum on dissolution of the Memphis City Schools charter could better be described with the familiar phrase “calm before the storm.”

Election Commission chairman Bill Giannini and his four colleagues seemed relaxed, even jovial, when they entered the auditorium at the SCEC Operations Center, and they got right down to business.

Commission attorney Monice Hagler reviewed the circumstances, including a back-and-forth on technical issues with state Election Coordinator Mark Goins, that had led, first, to a delay in setting an election date and, finally, after a court order and apparent resolution of contested points, to the selection of March 8.

Then Bill Giannini called for a voice vote of approval for the date, which came unanimously from the two Democrats and three Republicans (including Giannini). The chairman then asked for another vote on the 16 early voting sites selected by the Commission staff and announced by SCEC chief administrator Rich Holden, and, once again, there was a chorus of agreement.

Deed done, the press conference stretched out a bit anyhow, as if both the commissioners and the assembled media felt an obligation to endow the bare-bones scenario with texture and complexity appropriate to the occasion.

Reporters, who may have simply needed context to fill out their stories or segments, asked the kind of questions to which the answers were already well known — for example, whether the referendum (which, if successful, would force the de facto consolidation of the city and county school systems) would be restricted to voting residents of Memphis. It will be.

An inventive variant was a question as to whether poll workers could be from outside the city. The answer, from administrator Holden: No.

The commissioners themselves strained for detail — Giannini, for example, noting that, by scheduling the referendum on the same date as a special general election for state House District 98, the taxpayers would be saved some $50,000 (the cost of the House election by itself).

That was more illusion than reality, since the $50,000 which was already scheduled to be spent will be filled out by another $950,000 — the cost of extending the charter-transfer referendum to precincts outside 98. Total expenditures: $1 million, identical to what would have been spent for the referendum if there were no special House election.

Still, the colloquy engendered a sense of shared good will that marked the event as something of an oasis in a turbulent timeline that will include such future events as the almost certain passage of state legislation designed to impede the consolidation of districts, as well as looming litigations and other complications and contests as yet undreamed of .

The video below captures the central core of the event:

Tags: ,

Council, School Board Agree: Memphis' Will is Paramount

Two Tuesday night votes clear the way for a dissolution of MCS, but Norris bill and five-district solution loom as alternatives.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Board members Jeff Warren, Sara Lewis, and Tomeka Hart follow Tuesday nights action. (Martavius Jones is visible at left.)
  • JB
  • Board members Jeff Warren, Sara Lewis, and Tomeka Hart follow Tuesday night's action. (Martavius Jones is visible at left.)

As of 9:45 Tuesday night, Memphis sovereignty over its own affairs was doubly underscored:

Rejecting a “compromise” school plan received from Shelby County Schools by a convincing vote of 7-2, the Memphis City Schools board completed a statement begun several hours earlier when the Memphis City Council voted unanimously for a resolution “accepting and approving the dissolution and surrender of the Memphis City Schools Charter.”

Both outcomes moved the looming and perhaps inevitable consolidation of the MCS and SCS systems further down the road. But that almost seemed a secondary consequence. What the two votes established first and foremost was the right of Memphis citizens to chart their own course and resolve their own destiny.

As Councilman Bill Boyd said in joining his colleagues in voting for a resolution prepared by Councilman Shea Flinn, “We are all Memphians, and we’re all representatives of the citizens of Memphis,”, and that meant, Boyd said, that “we don’t have any other choice” other than to defend the city’s right to decide by itself the fate of its own public school system.

And School Board member Martavius Jones responded similarly when asked to account for his board’s one-sided rejection of a convoluted SCS plan. The county board's profferred plan would have forced the MCS board to rescind its dramatic December 20 vote to surrender its charter and authorize a citywide referendum on the transfer of MCS'authority to the Shelby County Schools board. Under the SCS counter-offer rejected Tuesday night county voters would have been empowered to vote along with Memphis residents for a replacement plan.

“What needs to be emphasized most is that Memphis City Schools has abided by the law. The law says Memphians have the right to control their fate,” Jones said.

Just in case the MCS Board might get cold feet and come to a different conclusion, Flinn and Council co-sponsor Harold Collins had crafted their resolution as a sort of fallback to the planned referendum. It set an effective date of March 21 for the dissolution of MCS with “an option to reconsider if the voters disapprove the referendum.” Now that the possible impediments have been removed, the Shelby County Election Commission is expected to meet Wednesday and set March 8 as a referendum date on the MCS action.

Meanwhile, the way has been laid for quick passage of legislation in Nashville that could stop the movement toward charter surrender in its tracks. Or so thinks its sponsor, state Senator Mark Norris of Collierville, the Republican majority leader.

Says Norris: “I would think that timely passage of my proposed bill would render that [the outcome of a charter-transfer referendum] moot. I doubt that they would have that referendum. If they did, I think it would be a nullity.”

His bill, based on his reading of Title 49, Chapter 2 ), Part 12 of the state legal code, a portion dealing with consolidation of school systems within the same jurisdiction, prescribes a method similar to the one just rejected by the MCS board. Like that SCS plan, Norris’ calls for a period of study, followed by a referendum prepared jointly by representatives of both affected systems. Unlike the SCS plan, the referendum contemplated by Norris’ bill would require dual approval by separate votes in city and county.

The bill is certain to be fast-tracked once the General Assembly reconvenes on February 7. It could therefore be on its way to becoming law before the presumed referendum date in Memphis of March 8 (the Election Commission was scheduled to meet on Wednesday to formalize that date) and before the March 21 date specified in the city council resolution.

Clearly, given the plethora of alternative legal realities, adjudication in the courts will be required to sort them out, and that could be a time-consuming process.

There are indications, however, that a genuine compromise solution may be in the works. School Board member Jeff Warren proposed a variant of it at Tuesday night’s Board meeting. He floated an alternative to the SCS plan that envisioned a consolidated system subdivided into five discrete administrative districts, supervised by a Chancellor. His plan was foredoomed Tuesday night by his provision for a countywide vote to achieve the system.

At one point, fellow Board member Stephanie Gatewood admonished Warren, who has put forth a series of would-be compromise plans, to no avail. “This is the fourth time you’ve tried to recreate, revise, or re-edit,” she said, pointing out that so far the other side had shown no interest in his suggestions.

Even so, Warren vowed afterward to continue trying to find some middle ground. And plans similar to the one he vented Tuesday night are in general circulation. Personalities as diverse as former mayor Willie Herenton, councilman Flinn, and state Senator Norris have all floated variants of the five-sub —district idea. Even David Pickler, the SCS board chairman whose talking out loud about seeking special school district status for SCS precipitated the current crisis, said Tuesday night the option might be worth considering “if we end up with a consolidated district.”

An awful lot of verbal hair-splitting continues to go on, with various parties to the controversy (notably anti-surrender Board member Kenneth Whalum on Tuesday night) pointing out that the current battle is being fought out not along lines of consolidation per se but concerning issues of charter “surrender” or “transfer.”

But a consolidated district is the projected end point of all the separate skirmishes, as everyone well knows, and that’s what the current war is all about.

See also John Branston's report.


GADFLY: Guns Über Alles

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 6:33 AM


The recent tragedy in Tuscon has, once again, catapulted the issue of our gun-besotted culture into the headlines. Much attention has been paid by the media particularly to the seemingly counterintuitive phenomenon that the murders of six innocents by a deranged shooter has spurred a dramatic surge in gun sales in its wake.

All kinds of normally peace-loving people are now apparently not just taking up arms, but announcing itas well.

Surprisingly, the same thing happened following the Virginia Tech massacre, proving, I suppose, that violence begets violence (or at least fear of it).

I myself, a hoplophobe and gun control advocate my whole life, fell victim to this mentality when I got a carry permit and started strapping a Glock (a .40 caliber—-no puny 9 millimeter for me) on my hip immediately after September 11, 2001. I stopped doing that, though, when I realized paranoia and a delusional belief that carrying a gun made me safer were major motivating factors in my decision to carry. I will say, though (and this may partially explain the gun mania) that nothing gives you a more perverse sense of awe-inspiring power than knowing you can, if you have to (and without even getting dirty in the process), take another human being's life. If anything, though, that's a good reason to heighten the requirements for gun ownership.

The issue of gun violence and whether or not guns should be subject to more control than they currently are, is one of those subjects whose discussion always generates more heat than light. I include abortion and capital punishment in the same category. If you have a contrary opinion, there is no point trying to have an intelligent debate with anyone who opposes abortion, favors capital punishment or believes guns are a solution to violence rather than a cause of it.

Fortunately, guns haven't reached the point of becoming any organized religion's sacrament (though some gun owners are every bit as zealous in their beliefs as the most rabid of religious fundamentalists), the way opposition to abortion has, but for its acolytes the fact that the right to gun ownership is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and sanctified by the Supreme Court, is almost as good as if it had been handed down from Mt. Sinai or the subject of a papal encyclical.

The sturm und drang over gun control, and the similar intransigence of its opponents to that of some of the antagonists in the battles over the other issues I mentioned previously, made me realize, once again, how different our attitude towards life and death is in this country. Ultimately, we don't value life nearly as much as other countries do (and, with no apologies to anti-abortion zealots, whose arguments are driven by the dominance of religious dogma over science, I do not include abortion as a sanctity of life—-other than the mother's—-issue).

This ethos manifests itself in a variety of ways, not the least of which is an attitude that it's acceptable for people who don't have health care to die prematurely, which they do.

We're also still one of the few civilized countries in the world that executes convicted criminals, in spite of what we know about flaws in the criminal justice system and how often those convictions are unjust.

Death is a political (with both a small and a capital “p”) issue in this country. So, some kinds of death are more acceptable than others. It is far more worrisome to the powers-that-be in Washington that there may be radical Muslims lying in wait to kill us than that there are mental defectives like Jared Loughner buying guns, and the still-available high-capacity magazines for them, who actually do kill us.

And so, while the death toll from terrorism in this country in the years since September 11, 2001 continues to remain the one that was inflicted on that date, the death toll from gun violence during that same period is literally hundreds of times greater. And, while we continue to spend trillions of dollars on two wars, a contingent of Keystone Kops at airport security checkpoints and innumerable measures to deal with potential deaths from terrorism, we spend a pittance, comparatively, on research to cure diseases that inflict actual deaths by the tens of thousands every year on our countrymen.

But, of course, the same thing that drives our “war on terrorism” is what drives the gun trade: profits. Which is why gun makers maintain their unholy alliance with the NRA. They rely on the NRA to gin up gun-owning (and buying) fervor, and the NRA relies on them to fund its lobbying juggernaut. It has become an article of faith that any legislator who even hints s/he favors increased gun control risks being targeted (sorry) for electoral defeat by the NRA, which rarely misses its target. The NRA knows how to put its money where its mouth is, which is why gun control has become an untouchable political issue, and probably won't go anywhere this time either.

In spite of creditable studies which show that guns do not make us safer, there continue to be zealots (no matter how thoroughly discredited) who insist the opposite is true.

Guns seem to be the only life-threatening instrumentalities that defy the regulatory and corrective after-effects of a disaster involving their use. Imagine airlines, for example, trying (much less being able) to thwart the preventive measures the FAA invariably imposes in the aftermath of deadly plane crashes, or auto manufacturers or food and drug or baby crib (and so on) manufacturers thumbing their noses at safety recalls after deaths caused by their products. The public wouldn't stand for it.

So, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the anti-gun-control forces seem, once again, poised to defeat any attempt to stiffen gun lawsfollowing the Tuscon tragedy, just as they have after every prior gun-facilitated mass murder. After all, a constitutional right exercised to line the pockets of a multi-billion dollar industry trumps human life, doesn't it? I wonder what the Pope would have to say about that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It Gets Curiouser: MSC Board Votes to Meet and Consider New Stand-Down Plan from County

Adoption of plan would require rescinding of December 20 charter-surrender vote; effect uncertain on newly ordered referendum.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 10:50 PM

Board member Kenneth Whalum (right) listens as MSC attorney Hopson presents county plan.
  • JB
  • Board member Kenneth Whalum (right) listens as MSC attorney Hopson presents county plan.
A day after Chancellor Walter Evans approved a consent decree requiring a citywide referendum on the surrender of the Memphis City Schools charter, the MCS Board took one small step Thursday night toward second-guessing itself on the matter.

Presented by MSC attorney Dorsey Hopson with a provisional stand-down plan prepared by the Shelby County Schools board, presumably with input from principals on either side of the essential issues, the MSC board voted 5-3 to hold a forthcoming “work session” meeting to consider adopting the plan.

The plan, which Hopson stressed he was merely presenting for his board to react to (“They didn’t share it,” when asked a question about the county board’s reasoning) , calls for both sides in the current dispute to back away from their “nuclear options. ”

In the case of Memphis City Schools, this would mean a rescinding of its vote to request a referendum on charter surrender; in the case of Shelby County Schools, it means a pledge not to act pursuant to any legislature measure striking down the existing prohibition against new special school districts and/or any private act to give Shelby County schools SSD status.

The county board’s pledge is contingent upon the city board’s action to rescind its vote of December 20, which requested a citywide referendum to approve the surrender of the MSC charter, thereby compelling, with a vote of approval, the city system’s de facto merger with Shelby County Schools.

Other provisions would guarantee either party the right to seek injunctive relief if the other party acted in defiance of the agreement, and would call for both parties to solicit through a joint RFP (request for proposal) an expert (or experts) to “study issues relating to school governance and funding,” including the two systems’ current status quo and all other recently discussed alternatives, including consolidation and special school district status for either system.

A “Governance and Funding Study Team” would be appointed jointly by the two systems, including parents, employees and board members representing both systems, as well as the two system superintendents. The “team” would prepare a detailed recommendation for a referendum to be voted on by residents of the entire county.

The terms of the agreement would hold for a minimum of one year and would expire after three years.

The MSC Board voted to consider the plan at a specially called work session in the near future but apparently would not make a decision on adopting it without calling yet a second meeting to do so. That vote was 5-3, with Board chairman Freda Williams, Jeff Warren, Sara Lewis, Betty Mallott, and Kenneth Whalum voting aye, and Martavius Jones, Patrice Robinson, and Stephanie Gatewood voting no. Tomeka Hart, a strong proponent of charter surrender, was absent.

With the ayes and noes reversed, the Board had previously rejected a motion to call a meeting merely to consider “facts” relating to the various alternatives, without specifically focusing on the proposed plan.

As Thursday night's vote indicated, the advocates of charter surrender can probably count on four solid votes not to rescind. Betty Mallott, who voted against charter surrender on December 20 but has since indicated she would oppose a vote to rescind, will be the pivotal vote when and if the Board considers action to approve the new plan.

The Board’s action came on the same day that state Election Coordinator Mark Goins confirmed that a citywide referendum must be held within 45 to 60 days of Chancellor Evans’ ruling on Wednesday. The Shelby County Election Commission, which is a party to the consent decree, has a scheduled meeting next week on which it could set the date.

It is worth noting however, that SCEC chairman Bill Giannini has been reluctant so far to set an election date, given a variety of what he considered legal uncertainties — some of them corroborated earlier by Goins. In the wake of Goins’ statement Thursday, some wonder if Giannini will find in the Board’s vote further reason, within the limits of the Evans order, for hesitation in setting an election date.

Among the lingering questions: If, as scheduled, Chancellor Evans’ order becomes final on Friday, would a subsequent vote by the MSC Board to rescind its December 20 vote affect the inevitability of a referendum? And, for that matter, would any action by the Board have a bearing on a ruling which was in response to a suit brought by a private group, the Citizens for Better Education?

Also on Thursday, state Senator Mark Norris, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, filed his bill to require a year-long stand-down in the MCS-SCS dispute, followed by a dual vote on surrendering the charter by city voters and county voters separately, with both votes required to be positive for consolidation to occur.

But in a statement released Thursday Norris agreed not to push his legislation further, nor to seek the fast-track treatment for it that House majority leader Beth Harwell has publicly promised him, if the county plan, which he supports and may have helped prepare, ends up being accepted by the MCS board.



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