Bartlett Schools: Referenda and Beyond, Part 4

By William J. Busler, Ph.D.

In this article, we will assume that the two referenda (setting up the MSD and the sales tax increase) have passed, and that funding is adequate to support a Bartlett School District.

THE SCHOOL BOARD

If the August 2nd referendum passes, every Bartlett citizen will have the opportunity to vote in the November 6th election for all five at-large members of the Bartlett School Board, on the same ballot as the presidential election. Soon after that, the School Board will begin to meet, and will appoint a Superintendent. The Superintendent will then select principals for the schools, and will make (presumably in consultation with them) all the decisions needed to open in August 2013. Thus the School Board, through the Superintendent, is ultimately in charge of the 11 schools and 9,000 students in Bartlett.

Obviously, it is crucial to elect School Board members with good sense and good will, because they will be operating nearly autonomously. The School Board will hire only one employee – the Superintendent of Schools. The Superintendent will make all decisions about the Schools, including appointing the principals, who will set many policies for individual schools. We have one chance to get this right!

THE SUPERINTENDENT

The conditions for hiring and employing a school superintendent are covered by Tennessee law in great detail. It is the responsibility of the Board of Education to employ a superintendent, who must have at least a bachelor’s degree. The School Board must adopt a written policy regarding the method of accepting and reviewing applications and interviewing candidates for the position of Superintendent of Schools. The Board must require all applicants to submit written statements indicating whether they have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony or have been dismissed for certain forms of misconduct, and to agree to undergo a criminal background check.

Additionally, each applicant must also submit at least thirty days before employment a written resignation addressed to the school board where he was most recently employed, unless that school board waives the thirty-day notice requirement.

The duties of the Superintendent, set forth in the State law, are too numerous (37) even to be listed here.

The Superintendent’s salary will probably be in the $150,000 to $175,000 range. As a reference, MCS Superintendent Kriner Cash’s base salary is $276,000, plus a subsequent raise; John Aitken, the SCS Superintendent, makes $193,800.

FACULTY and STAFF

Prospective teachers and support staff members will need to apply to the Superintendent of Schools for employment in the MSD, since tenure for teachers in another district (including SCS) does not transfer to the Bartlett School District. Salaries, however, must be at least as high as the current SCS pay scales. In fact, the SES Consultants’ report assumes that the SCS pay scales will be followed. Others have argued that since the Unified SCS scale will have to be “leveled up” to the MCS salaries, this new higher scale might have to be used. But logic would dictate that since the Bartlett MSD would be seceding from the present SCS system rather than from the Unified SCS, the current (lower) SCS scale should serve as the reference point.

In my opinion, though, the current MCS and SCS salary scales will be irrelevant. Many excellent teachers with years of experience will probably leave the Unified SCS District, and will be applying to the various suburban MSD’s. Bartlett will have to offer competitive salaries, higher than either of the present scales, in order to attract the best-qualified teachers for our system.

Retirement benefits are administered through the State of Tennessee and will be carried over.

Next: Shelby County Schools and Their Fate

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