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On the Schools

In Jackson Baker's recent article "How We Got Here" (Politics, Feb. 24th issue), one major irony was omitted: State funds would have been withheld from Memphis city and Shelby County schools if Senate Bill 25 had not become law. Baker makes no mention of the Tennessee Department of Education's admonition or the disaster narrowly averted.

On February 1st, Patrick Smith, acting commissioner of the Department of Education, wrote superintendents John Aitken and Kriner Cash. Smith outlined the provisions of TCA 49-5-203(d) which require the commissioner of education to determine "that the rights and privileges afforded to teachers by Section 49-5-203 are not impaired, interrupted, or diminished by organizational changes like the one proposed by the referendum." This determination must be made "[p]rior to the change in any governmental structure or organization becoming effective." The consequence of non-compliance with this provision is the withholding of state education funds. The commissioner set a deadline of February 15th for the submission of such a plan that ensures the rights and privileges of teachers are secure.

In response to this information and with full knowledge of the consequences associated with non-compliance, on February 7th, Aitken and Cash submitted a joint letter to Smith stating, "We respectfully must advise you that it is impossible to comply with your request that we provide you with a plan for the protection of the rights of teachers by February 15, 2011, and a more comprehensive overall transition plan by March 1, 2011." Their letter further states, "[I]t appears to us that the three-year time frame outlined in SB 25 is a more realistic deadline for preparing a proper and appropriate plan."

On February 17th, Smith responded, "[T]he department certainly recognizes the complexities of developing such plans in an abbreviated time period. ... Your letter notes that the time frame outlined in Senate Bill 25 is 'a more realistic deadline for preparing a proper and appropriate plan,' and the department would certainly consider any timeline suggested by your offices consistent with that legislation."

Baker skillfully highlights some myths and realities that got us here. But he overlooks the reality that, without our legislation, the city schools' failure to comply with state law would have left our students at even greater risk.

Mark Norris

State Senator

McEwen's

I am always thrilled to hear of a new restaurant opening in Memphis, and so I read with great interest the article about the Elegant Farmer's debut (Food News, March 3rd issue). In 1997, when Mac Edwards opened McEwen's on Monroe, he did a great thing for Memphis dining. Then, three years ago he did another great thing when he sold the business to Bert Smythe and John Littlefield.

In the last three years, Bert and John have served daily doses of Southern hospitality right at the front door — greeting customers by name and setting the tone of the McEwen's experience with their eclectic (and sometimes over-the-top) shirts. New additions to the menu such as the small plates accommodate any size appetite, and the kitchen delivers quality in every single bite. (I recently told my husband I believe that if I make it to heaven, St. Peter will greet me there with BBQ Duck Confit Enchiladas and a Warm Wild Mushroom Salad.)

Last week, you credited Mac Edwards as the "restaurateur behind McEwen's." While that was true when it opened, today all the credit goes to Bert Smythe and John Littlefield, and I for one am thrilled they are there.

Anna Holtzclaw

Memphis

Nutty Legislators

Bruce VanWyngarden made an excellent point (Letter from the Editor, March 3rd issue) about "all the nutty laws being proposed by GOP legislators in Nashville." However, he is too limited in the scope of his statement.

Nutty laws are proposed (and unfortunately many are enacted) at the federal, state, and local levels by Republicans and Democrats. Elected officials of both parties propose nutty laws to pander to special interest groups and propose other nutty laws because they believe they know best and will be able to achieve heaven on earth if they just had more taxpayer money and more control over citizens. This is all nonsense.

Elected officials have proven time and again their self-serving nature and how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. And it is only the negative restrictions in the United States Constitution that protect us as citizens from these nutty laws enacted by self-serving officials of both parties.

Greg Webb

Memphis

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