The cover story in the current edition of The Memphis News looks at the coming local schools consolidation against the backdrop of larger changes in education philosophy taking place across the nation.
And along the way we examined some other factors while we are in the time between the establishment of the new countywide school board and the consolidation planning commission and the first decisions about consolidation.
Here are a few points that didn’t make the cover story starting with a planning commission member who joins the others in agreeing the consolidation plan the group comes up with could be transformative for the city and county as a whole.
But also like the others, he acknowledged the risks are also just as real if the consolidation blueprint isn’t solid.
And a Realtor sees a window, at least for now, in terms of the public’s verdict which will determine whether consolidation is a bust or a success.
Christian Brothers University president John Smarrelli Jr. is bothered by what he termed the enduring “demarcation” between those inside the city of Memphis and those outside the city. The schools consolidation, he said, should go after replacing that with a new mindset as a larger goal.
“It’s bigger than our schools. It’s a state of mind and if we don’t start educating our pre-k through twelve that this is a state of mind and we need to be living it, I think what we are going to be looking at is one big wasteland and potentially one semi prosperous area that is not sustainable,” said the planning commission member. “We’ll die slowly.”
Realtor Sue Stinson Turner has not seen the first indication of parental concerns translating into the kind of flight that preceeded and followed busing in the 1970s. But she is quick to point out that ongoing concerns parents have about education even without such a historic change are part of the equation in the real estate market.
“In all honesty, I think it’s always affected real estate in some shape, form or fashion,” she said at a recent “Master Your Market” forum sponsored by Chandler Reports that focused on the coming consolidation. “That’s not going to change.”
Turner says whatever concerns are out there among homeowners haven’t translated to for sale signs. And she added the difficulties in the market amount to “an inability to sell properties for what they were once worth.”
“I think too many times our community reacts on fear. We react on what we don’t know is going to happen and the fear that something might happen. And so, people jump before they find out what the reality of it all is,” Turner said.” “We sell what we’ve got. And let’s give this a chance and see what it looks like before we decide we’re moving to DeSoto County. Because guess what, DeSoto County’s going to have those same problems before it’s over with if everybody goes there.”