One of the most dismaying features of the ongoing move toward consolidation of Shelby County's public schools has been the determination, from day one, of various interested parties to avoid any kind of unification.
It isn't just the county-city landscape that has seen this urge toward separatism. It has been present even in the separate municipalities, in the pride of place of citizens plainly pleased by that aspect of Norris-Todd and subsequent legislation which enables new municipal school districts as against some restored version of the expiring Shelby County Schools system, with its amalgamation of suburban schools and consitutencies. Some are more equal than others, right?
But it isn't just the folks in the hinterlands who incline toward separatism. The current flap on the Unified School Board over a called meeting to deal with the contract of current Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash has rekindled racial loyalties per se, even among some of those Memphians who had up until now been the most vocal and enthusiastic of color-blind unifiers. We find ourselves wondering: Just when can we expect a drop-in from Al Sharpton?
Praise, meanwhile, to the 21 members of the Transition Planning Commission, who have labored long and hard, for the most part, with their various parochial interests well off the table, to come up with a plan comprehensive and innovative enough to accommodate not only the various tribes and kingdoms of Shelby County but the multitude of educational programs and new specialized districts being dreamed up by the state department of education in Nashville.
"Multiple Paths to Achievement," the TPC's preliminary plan has been called, and it will be a shame if it isn't allowed to come to pass without at least a year or two of fair trial at the all-county level. At this point, given the likelihood of suburban voters' approving separate districts in the forthcoming August 2nd referenda in six outlying cities, that outcome would not appear likely.
Everybody seems to be allowing for the delaying effect of possible litigation, though, so who knows?
Penny Foolish, Pound Wise
Even as we speak, there is likely to be a debate raging between some members of the Shelby County Commission and Mayor Mark Luttrell's administration over plans to redirect some $20 million of capital improvement funds toward a hurry-up renovation of the 40-year-old county building, recently renamed in honor of the late Commissioner Vasco Smith.
We think it's a good idea overall. The building is coming part at the seams, with heating and air conditioning problems, with uneven and insufficient distribution of public lavatories, and with obvious gaps in the provision of facilities for the disabled.
We do wonder why an administration progressive enough to deal with this infrastructure issue sounded so chintzy just a week or two ago when trying to cut $800,000 in grants on behalf of programs benefiting veterans, the indigent, and the homeless.
The commission restored those funds. We hope it will deal responsibly with the new request as well.