Using $151 each in fake money, the nine members of the Memphis City School Board and Superintendent Johnnie B. Watson prioritized the boards’ goals for the year at their annual retreat. The elected officials and superintendent met at the Teaching and Learning Center Jan. 26 and 27 to discuss the school system’s challenges for the upcoming year and how they were going to meet those challenges. After working in small groups to identify areas that needed improvement, the board members individually weighted their concerns with large, photocopied ones, fives, tens, twenties, and hundreds. Retreat facilitator Steve Allison explained the exercise was important because “we can’t work on all the issues simultaneously to the same degree.” By assigning dollar values, the board could get a more concrete look at what its members felt was most important. Raising student achievement was its first concern, receiving $612 from the board. Increasing funding got $439 and more parental involvement came in at $193. Changing the perception of the board got $77 and fiscal management $98. Some of the commissioners, like newcomer Patrice Robinson, spread their money across the items, while others chose to focus all their money on what they considered key issues. The casually dressed board members then met in small groups to decide what action to take to meet their goals. The board, which has previously garnered criticism for not getting along and wasting time squabbling, seemed to enjoy themselves throughout the Friday evening and Saturday morning sessions. “I think this is a beginning of a new day that will destroy these images of the board not getting along,” said Michael Hooks Jr., vice president of the board.

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