#MCS Following the Media – 2/26/11 – 3/5/11

We’re entering the final stretch. It’s been a crazy ride. While my coverage of this has slowed considerably due to other commitments, the media has still, by and large, been all over this like a pack of wild dogs on an injured animal.

Because of the complexities of this issue initially, I’ve pretty much just relegated myself to this one topic for some time. In the process, there’s been a lot that has slipped by me that’s some pretty important stuff. Time is a precious resource and not having much of it means that I often have to let things slip past. Once the election passes, the questions surrounding this issue won’t be completely resolved, but the day to day issues surrounding it likely will. So, after Tuesday I’ll get back to doing what I normally do, and stop focusing exclusively on the MCS issue. I’ll probably have some additional posts here and there as the judicial process continues, but the outcome of Tuesday’s election will have the biggest impact on what that coverage will need to be.

Chances are I and many others will be live tweeting the events on Tuesday. You can follow that conversation here on Twitter under the #MCS tag or you can follow me directly on Twitter.

It’s been a wild ride, and I’m sure it will continue to be as the legal issues are resolved in court.

Now on to the events of the week.

Early Vote / Voting locations / CA-Yacoubian Poll

Early voting ended on Thursday with 29,673 people having voted. Regular polling locations will be open on Tuesday. If you’re not sure where to vote, you can find out by filling out the form here. Polls will be open from 7am to 7pm.

The CA and Yacoubian research conducted a poll of Memphis voters about the referendum. The outcome isn’t particularly surprising, though it does call into question the ultimate outcome of the referendum. In short, this thing could be a lot closer than anyone thought it would be.

As with any election, it will all be about turnout. That turnout will partially determine the fate of two school districts, and a whole bunch of children.

Neither side of this issue has really put forth a comprehensive campaign strategy, due in large part to the short time frame and lingering questions that surround the issue. I don’t say that to point the finger at anyone on any side, just to note that putting together a campaign in such a short window presents serious organizing challenges. Considering the time frame, there’s been more of an organized effort on both sides than I might have expected.

Unified Board Deadline / SCS Lawsuit

The Shelby County Commission is set to appoint members of a Unified School Board on March 28th. If you’re interested in serving, take a moment to view the necessary qualifications for service then print and return this application before the deadline on March 22.

In reaction to this decision, the Shelby County School Board of Education added the Shelby County Commission to their lawsuit. I haven’t seen an updated version of the lawsuit as of yet, though the CA may have updated it by the time you read this.

Cash Extension?

On Thursday, the CA reported that some on the MCS Board of Education were considering extending the contract of School Supt, Kriner Cash. Cash’s contract currently continues through the end of the 2012 school year. While there’s no question that many of Cash’s reforms have had a positive effect on the City Schools, and that those reforms need to continue. Considering all the legal questions that remain, extending his contract at this point seems a bit premature.

The business of a contract extension is political to begin with, and in this environment, the political nature of it is even greater. Under the terms of his current contract, an extension would last for one year or through June of 2013. At that point, a new contract would have to be negotiated.

Considering the amount of time that will likely be necessary, either by law, or out of practicality, to consolidate the functions of MCS and SCS, should the referendum be successful, a one year extension will likely not have the same effect as a recent decision by the SCS board to extend, and back load the contract of Shelby County Supt. John Aitken.

That said, the political impact would be covered as a tit for tat move, and would likely damage the current MCS board, at least until some formalized process is put in place and a more definite timeline is understood.

I get that what SCS did, and what some on the MCS board want to do is apples and oranges. There’s nothing, as far as I know, in any contract extension for Dr. Cash that would create the golden parachute that Aitken received. However, in a world of perception, where every move made by any Memphis institution receives a much higher level of scrutiny than any Shelby County institution, any extension at this point would likely be viewed and reported as some kind of wasteful spending, whether it was or not.

I also get that this is not fair, but it is reality. A reality that should not be ignored.

MCS Garnishment of Memphs Accounts

In addition to all the other stuff that’s going on, MCS sought a garnishment of the accounts of the City of Memphis for the $57m that the city withheld in 2008.

To be honest, knowing what has or hasn’t been paid in this deal is difficult. All the information that’s readily available at this point is what has been appropriated, and even that is wrapped in mystery. I do know that the MCS budget included some $78m from the City of Memphis and that the City budget included a $60m transfer out to MCS. Beyond that, I’m not sure what’s been given to whom.

In addition to that information, I also know that Mayor A C Wharton has sought to negotiate a payment settlement on the issue, but I do not know where those negotiations stand. One can only assume that they’re stalled based on the actions of MCS, but really, who knows? I’d be willing to bet that this, once again, goes to court and some kind of payment plan is instituted.

Personally, I think there are a bunch of other things surrounding this issue that neither side is acknowledging. Until there’s some common ground, this issue will remain unsettled.

WHALUM!!!™

Perhaps the most overblown story of the week was that of the “resignation” of MCS School Board member Kenneth Whalum Jr., from this point forward refered to as WHALUM!!!™ per a request.

In typical fashion, WHALUM!!!™ made a big show Friday of “resigning” in a statement, was evasive when questioned by the media as he walked out of a meeting, only noting his rally later that night, then watched in delight at the media chased their tails for hours, until he finally let the cat out of the bag and noted this was not a formal resignation, but that he was resigned to the outcome.

The media coverage below doesn’t reflect all this angst because many outlets either changed, or removed articles and posts after the blatant media manipulation was revealed. Some deleted any reference to the events of the day completely, perhaps in protest of WHALUM!!!™’s actions.

As anyone that was around during the resignation saga of former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton knows, a resignation is a formal process that requires an elected official to notify, in writing, a specific body, in particular, the Shelby County Election Commission, and the body under which they serve. Since none of this was done, a threat of resignation is nothing but a ploy. Further, that no member of the media, as far as I can tell, even bothered to ask this question until much later, is a testimony to just how reactionary the media is.

Every outlet was there, fighting for the scoop, but because they were all there, no scoop would be had. They all would have published about the same time anyway.

Further, all the BS that has flowed from WHALUM!!!™’s mouth since this process started, from calling the City a dead beat dad to comparing the transfer resolution to rape is designed to do nothing but further elevate the diminutive WHALUM!!!™.

So, that the media took him literally just shows how gullible or frenzied the media is where he is concerned. In any other circumstance, like if WHALUM!!!™ didn’t have his last name, or wasn’t a preacher at a well attended church, he would be dismissed out of hand as a crackpot. Clearly, he’s using what he’s got to his advantage, and the media has happily played along.

Maybe one day, WHALUM!!!™ will grow up and realize it’s not all about him, but I wouldn’t count on it, and neither should you.

Finally, please go vote, no matter what position you hold, pro or con, do it. From my perspective, the act of voting is more important than the position you hold. The low early voting turnout is disheartening. I hope that people make a serious effort to get out on Tuesday. This is what a representative democracy is all about, and the lack of interest showed at the polls so far is a dire indicator of the state of our representative democracy.

February 26, 2011

Students Hold Rally for Education
School charter is a hot topic at AFSCME event
Memphis voters turned off by school consolidation protest

February 27, 2011

none

February 28, 2011

Gates: Spending Cuts Don’t Have to Harm Learning
Early Voting Barely Eclipses 3 Percent
Shelby County Commission finalizes vote for 25-member unified school boar
Crunching some early-vote numbers
ounty Commission Plans to Appoint Countywide School Board End of March
Cash Says Ballot Question Short On Answers For Voters
Call for charter surrender vote’s meaning draws ire
Memphis grapples with budget troubles that trace back to 2008 decision

March 1, 2011

Raising up Prayers and Money as School Referendum Approaches
Memphis school board member withdraws plan to divide unified district
Cash Delays Releasing Budget Books to MCS Board
Divisions Remain As Schools Talks Continue
U of M Professors Explain School Study
Merger Debate: Pickler vs. Netters
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton casts ballot for Memphis City Schools charter surrender
Memphis City Schools’ deputy supt. issues apology to principals for ‘bullying’
Memphis schools Supt. Kriner Cash explores contract extension

March 2, 2011

Memphis Students Among Top 30 In World Math Competition
Raleigh’s 143,000-student district aiming for “integration by achievement” plan
Charter Issue Faces Low Voter Turnout
MCS Deputy Superintendent’s Apology
Merger Debate Continues: Dr. Jeff Warren
Wendi C. Thomas: ‘Ugly’ MCS is in the eyes, actions of SCS deniers
Some labor unions rally for schools referendum; counter groups opposed to merger
Memphis suburbs mull intervention in merger suit
Memphis schools Supt. Kriner Cash has contract extension support on board

March 3, 2011

Where Do We Go From Here? | School Choice
MCS Files to Garnish City Accounts
Countdown to the future
Halbert email: She and voters ‘beyond confused’
Memphis City Schools seek to tap city account for $57 million debt
Early voting numbers show solid jump
Putting the early voting turnout into context
Councilman Bill Morrison on School Funding
Dr. Kriner Cash on Schools
Ex-D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee joins anti-union offensive in Tennessee
Last early-voting day boosts balloting, but low turnout looms in school referendum

March 4, 2011

Breaking down early-voting after strong final day
Former D.C. chief Michelle Rhee in Memphis
Early Voting Slim on Schools Referendum
Speaking of Rhee — her ex-husband was just named new TN commissioner of education
Student voices heard at rally for education
County Schools Adds Commission As Defendant In Consolidation Suit
Kenneth Whalum Walks Out on Memphis City School Board
Bartlett Meeting Takes Gingerly Approach to Idea of Municipal District, Hits Merger Proponents
Ministers Urge “Yes” Vote on Schools Merger
Early Voting Surges in Advance of Tuesday’s Referendum
Pastors Urge Memphians To Vote ‘Yes’ For School Merger
SCS Sues Shelby County over Unified Board
New School Board Application Too Invasive
Local Clergy Encourage Yes Vote on School Merge
Kenneth Whalum Denies Resignation from MCS Board
Whalum Purposely Creates Confusion Over Resignation
Merger Debate: Viewer’s Questions Answered
City Attorney on MCS Garnishment
Shelby County Schools sues County Commission over makeup of unified school board
Memphis City Schools board member Kenneth Whalum not resigning after all
Faith In Memphis: Power of pulpit plays into school consolidation issue

March 5, 2011

Suburban leaders call Memphis and Shelby County merger ‘setup’
Wendi C. Thomas: Charter surrender ballot choice reflects potential
CA/Yacoubian poll: Memphis City Schools charter surrender leads, but tide may turn

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