MCS: How Many Kids? 

Getting enrollment numbers from Memphis City Schools is harder than doing trigonometry in your head. True to form, new superintendent Kriner Cash's communications department put us off last week when we tried to find out how many students are enrolled this year in city schools, and in certain underused schools in particular.

The explanations included "we don't do estimates" and "it's too preliminary" because, for some reason, hundreds or perhaps thousands of students apparently don't start coming to school until after Labor Day, even though classes began three weeks ago. No wonder they have trouble with standardized tests and graduation requirements.

The unstated reason for not wanting to disclose enrollment numbers, of course, is that they are likely to show an overall decline and continued low enrollment in schools that board members and superintendents lack the political courage to close. Fewer students means fewer dollars, because funding is based on attendance.

The Shelby County school system, which is growing, readily provides enrollment numbers to the media and the public. The 20-day reporting period ends September 8th, when MCS will have to cough up a number. It is likely to be in the neighborhood of 100,000 to 110,000.

It pays to look big, but county schools, charter schools, home-schooling, and private schools are cutting into MCS enrollment. Members of the Memphis City Council, Memphis Board of Education, and the media deserve to know the true figures and trends so they can make wise decisions about school funding.

What Are Friends For?

What a weekend! While New Orleans dodged a hurricane and the Republican Convention in the Twin Cities got off to a bumpy start, a candidate with no apparent qualifications for a top political job was anointed, even without knowing exactly what the duties of that office entailed ...

No, we're not talking about Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska but an outside-the-box Friday appointment much closer to home: that of former MLGW chief Joseph Lee to a deputy directorship in the city's Division of Park Services, a sinecure that will pay Lee a tidy $105,000 annually. In yet another demonstration of his public-be-damned attitude to public service, Mayor Willie Herenton made certain that one of his closest cronies landed on his feet after a controversial three-year tenure at MLGW that culminated in his firing.

Like Palin, Joseph Lee isn't entirely sure what he'll be doing as a park services deputy director. When a Commercial Appeal reporter informed him of the position to which he'd been appointed, Lee responded by saying, "Is that what it is? That's wonderful."

Imagine that! Mayor Herenton has yet again put friendship above competence in handing out a six-figure salary to someone utterly unqualified for the position and blissfully unaware of what exactly the job entails. So don't expect to see Joseph Lee out in Audubon Park planting trees. And we don't expect our "new" but still anemic City Council to do a thing about this latest mayoral slap-in-the-face, delivered without the slightest sense of shame to the citizens of Memphis.

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