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These Are Your Children: It’s Time to Get Involved!

June 19, 2012

Chances are, you’ve never voted in a Memphis or Shelby County school board race.  That was before it mattered.  This year, this August 2nd, it matters. It matters Big Time.

According to Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, fewer than 15 % of registered voters typically vote in local school board elections.  Most of those past voters turned out because they believed they had a personal stake in the outcome:  candidates and their friends, family, and passionate supporters. Teachers. Members of public employee unions. Dissatisfied public school parents who knew their district’s candidates and perceived a distinct difference among them.

This year, it’s about you. Your family. Your quality of life. Your tax dollars. Your stake in what Memphis becomes. It’s time for you to vote. It matters.

Memphis is broken.  Oh, let us count the ways: schools, jobs, crime, poverty, poor health, racial polarization.  (Yes, there are more, but that’s for another post.)

The nitty gritty, as we groovy Boomers said in our salad days (I never really said that), is that all of the ills just mentioned can’t be resolved until we fix our schools.  We must educate all of our children to be productive citizens with the skills needed to cobble together a responsible adult life, whether the first step is college, a trade school, or an entry level job. These are your children, as our friend and MCS teacher Darrell Hugueley likes to say. (More from Darrell to come. Watch for him.) Right now, many of your children – children whose meals and housing and education and health care you help to provide –  are leading lives that lead nowhere. Is this what you want for them? For your community? I don’t think so.

It matters. Whether your children are grown, non-existent, home schooled or enrolled in a private school. Even if you don’t live in Shelby County.  If you live anywhere in the Greater Memphis are, Bubba, it’s time to start caring about Memphis and Shelby County schools. All of them. Because you can’t live here without being affected by the schools that are broken.

Here’s your game plan (hat tip to Shelby Co. Mayor Mark Luttrell):

Know what Shelby County School Board District you live in.  If you don’t know, ask us.  We bought a map just for that purpose. You can reach us via the Comments section below, or at (Soon we will have email here on the blog.)

Know your candidates.  Listen to Eddie’s interviews  on Friday Viewpoint with Eddie Settles, Bott Radio Network AM 640. District 1 and 2 candidates will appear on June 22, District 3 and 4 candidates on June 29, and Districts 5 and 6 on July 27. (School Board Chairman Billy Orgel, who has already appeared on our show, is unopposed in District 7.) All shows will air from 3:00-3:30 p.m.  All shows will be posted after broadcast here at Back in River City.

We are making Back in River City a one-stop destination for getting to know your candidates. In addition to the radio interviews, we’ll have links to written questionnaires completed by the candidates, biographical information, and links to their campaign websites. (Be patient. This stuff takes time and we do not have paid staff.)

Vote. Early voting begins July 13th. But, before you vote, know whom you are voting for and why.

Keep your commissioner accountable. More than ever before, school board commissioners must have the skills to lead,  analyze, think critically, make tough and sound decisions, anticipate potential outcomes, and play well with others. They must be able to understand and translate complex issues. They must be committed to listening to and being engaged with their constituents on a routine basis. In short, they must have more on the ball than was ever required before of a local school board candidate. Make them perform.

Stay involved. This election is just the beginning of a long process of how to make our public schools work. Of how to help our children. Of how to heal Memphis and make a Greater Memphis.

We’ll be here to make the journey with you.  If there is something you want to know about the issues, about voting, knowing your candidates, how to hold elected school board officials accountable, just ask.  We’ll find the answer or an official who will respond.  Because they are our children, too.

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