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It’s All Over – by Darrell Hugueley

February 21, 2013

It’s all over.
Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools effectively no longer exist. No version of them will ever be what they were in the past.

Who killed public education in this county?

Perhaps the death knell had sounded already before the whole thing started three or four years ago. Perhaps the mortal wound of charter surrender was the killing blow. Perhaps they had been slowly suffocated, or poisoned over a period of time. To put it the way Milton Bradley might have, perhaps it was Col. Pickler in the boardroom with a fence, or maybe it was Rep. Todd in the capital with some clout.

It doesn’t matter. MCS and SCS are dead and gone.

teacher mcs

The great disaster movies usually have a scene at the finale of the film in which the battered and bruised characters dust themselves off and consider their fate as the camera pulls back to reveal a charred, debris-strewn landscape that will eventually become a new world. The hope is usually that it will not become the same world again, but a brave, new world, one that is remade better than the last one.

Wherever you stand on the issue of consolidation, one thing is certain: no version of public schools in this county will ever be same as before. There will not exist a bigger version of MCS, nor will there be a bigger version of SCS. Those fine ladies, to paraphrase the eloquent lament by former Superintendent Kriner Cash at the MCS District In-Service last August, are going away forever.

Think about it.

I could do a dangerous thing and ask you to open your mind, but let’s just imagine for a moment. Imagine a funeral service this summer in which we lay to rest Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools in a dual service. Everyone attends. Everyone. We all pay our respects and mourn in our ways, even blame a few people and regret a few things.

Now imagine it is the end of that service and we are preparing to leave. Leaving it all behind us. Maybe this scene shows Shelby County residents divided and shaken and not a little afraid after the thundering fireball of consolidation descended from the heavens of education. Picture the movie credits rolling and the taxpayers and homeowners dusting themselves off and looking around in a daze, resolute that they have a lot of work to do to rebuild their educational world.

If you are reading this, you are interested in public education in Memphis and Shelby County.

photo credit Fox13

photo credit Fox13

Surely you have heard the references to the opportunity to create a “World Class” operation in the merged school system. I am afraid that what some people mean when they say that is we have an opportunity to create a world-class education system just like the one we have and they didn’t have, but on a grander scale.

While I admit that is putting words in people’s thoughts, so to speak, you can judge for yourself the actions of politicians and board members as they fashion the new reality of public education from the ashes and debris of the old. Most of the efforts are still of the us vs. them mentality and their thought processes and deliberations reveal such.

This is a chance for wholesale catharsis. To truly build from the ground up, not just the nuts and bolts of the system, but the whole idea of the system. To step outside the boundaries, color outside the lines, think outside the box, (insert your favorite metaphor here).

But we don’t seem to believe that the systems we have in place can be replaced with anything but more of the same on a larger scale. That is not a radical or cathartic way to think, and will not produce a world-class education system.

For example, you might say, “Of course a larger system needs a larger budget.”

But does it really?

Should a larger system require a larger budget is the question to ask.

Are the same people sitting at the same tables asking for the same things? Then perhaps we do need more money to satisfy the requirements for the same old thing on a bigger scale. But to get something different, you have to do something different.

cash jones pickler

I will soon have the opportunity to address the unified school board at a special meeting to help present the new compensation and directed pathways model for teachers. It will require more imagination and a vision of excellence heretofore unseen by the august body we will be addressing. Yet not to say it, not to present a compensation package for teachers that is market compatible and that sustains and rewards excellence would be to limit the form a new consolidated district can have.

We can’t have a 20th century school system in the 21st century. We can’t pay teachers the way we paid them before. We can’t accept levels of accountability from political leaders and educational administrators the way we did before. We can’t even base funding and revenue streams on the patterns of old.

testing is not teaching

That is all over.
In my opinion as a teacher leader and parent voice, the greatest leap forward to excellence  could be triggered if  every single citizen of this county-wide community had an epiphany that we are talking about our children. Collectively, our children. As in, they all belong to us and we are responsible for them.

Whether or not we each have children or family members in public schools, those students are our children. Your children. My children.

Whether all the parents belong to the same political party or not, these are our children.

poor children

The children that are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, or “other” are ours.

The rich, poor and middle class children are ours.

The homeless, hungry and sick are ours.

Children are our community’s future job holders, future tax payers, future constituents. Our children.That is what your tax dollars actually pay for–not just  the children in your family or neighborhood, but every single child in this county. And if that epiphany does not happen, then we will get the future we deserve.

In fact,  the future we get will be the one we are brave enough to imagine.


Back In River City regular Darrell Hugueley is a Language Arts Teacher at Cordova Middle School. He is a Teach Plus Fellowship alum, and serves on committees for Memphis City Schools as a teacher voice in the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative and the Teacher Compensation workgroup. Darrell was most recently added to the joint committee forming the teacher evaluation model for the consolidated school district. A published poet and author, Darrell has been married 29 years and is the proud father of two awesome children.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 21, 2013 11:14 pm

    One might ask if this whole entire MCS/SCS system scenario is really part of a much larger social class system that was designed to separate the haves from the have not’s. If it is, one might also reconsider all of the following information. Why has there been a massive multi decade effort by the powers-that-be to maintain an ongoing educational and economic system that makes damn sure that the people they govern stays in their proper place; and for the have not’s, this means a place of subservience with few full time jobs that last long or either part-time jobs or temporary jobs with few or no benefits at all for the have not’s; and therefore, there is no need for the have not’s to be able to read or write above the 5th grade level, nor for them to have the ability to perform an in-depth analysis concerning their own plight, a standard of living far lower than when people lived during the economic crash of the Great Depression, only now the have’s manage the have not’s very closely by a highly sophisticated smart phone system that keeps up with every second of time in the have not’s lives. There will be two types of people at this point: those people who are on the grid of this smart phone system and those people who are off the grid of this smart phone system. If this is not true, then why the massive government effort to give away these smart phones to every single person who will choose to have one, even the poorest people, who are given these devices for free with a texting system that will help them manage every area of their lives. Moreover, once no one can manage their own lives without these technologies, then the next step will be to insert these technologies into clothing lines, eyeglasses, eye contacts, and ear devices; and too even insert them medically by force into people’s bodies, and to manage all of this with various application systems that consistently data mines the system 24/7 to glen information at a glance via computer. This is a system that has no need for a middle class of people anymore; not even lower upper class people will be needed. The only question to ask at this point is what class of people will you fall into really the lowest class of people or highest class of people. Only a few people ever rise to the level of the highest class of people; and so, it is not likely that you are going to be one of these people because they will not need you for anything anymore, not even if you have a damn PhD. At best, there will only be a low class wage labor job available for you. And don’t’ you dare show them that you’re any smarter than they are or dare attempt to teach to much to anyone else or they may drag you out in front of everyone and shoot you dead in the head. Do not say it cannot happen; it already has happened; once in Germany via Hitler and right here in America during slavery and indentured servitude (still slavery). And now, it is happening again on a global scale. And so, if you think your race or current social status is going to matter to the powers-that-be think again because the powers-that-be are going to become equal opportunity owners of you and everyone that you know! Some of the people who own you may even look exactly like you! Remember this fact about American History people: ““The first legally owned slave in the U.S. was owned by a black man. The first legally-recognized slave in the area that was to become the United States was John Casor, a black man. A court in Northampton County, Virginia declared him property for life. Casor was “owned” by the BLACK colonist Anthony Johnson. Anthony Curriey Johnson himself had been an indentured servant who had finished his servitude, married, purchased land and then purchased indentured servants, both white and black. Yes, the first legally owned slave in the American colonies was owned by a black man! What irony. But remember, Anthony Johnson came from Africa where slavery was common and expected. He only wanted to continue the practice of his homeland!””

    For futher reading both academic an non-academic:

    The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin 1995.

    The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas

    Deliberate Dumming Down /

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