Governor signs bill into law, referendum date set

volunteersCongratulations to everyone that has worked so hard for the creation of a municipal school district in Bartlett.

The recent votes in the Tennessee General Assembly in favor of a bill lifting the ban on municipal school districts throughout the state, and the Governor’s decision to sign the bill into law this afternoon, were major steps in the right direction. However, there is still work to be done to achieve our goal, and we are confident that by working together we will be able to accomplish great things.

We are now making preparations for the new referendum, which the suburban Mayors have targeted for Tuesday, July 16. We have already received many new requests for yard signs, and we are putting together a plan to raise the funds needed to place a new order, as well as get them distributed quickly. We will share further details with you soon.

Better Bartlett Schools would also like to take this opportunity to let you know more about a project in which one of our members is involved. Mick Wright is part of a group leading the efforts to recall Shelby County Commission Chairman Mike Ritz. For more information, please visit

Thank you for your dedication to ensuring a high quality education for the children of Bartlett.

The Committee for Better Bartlett Schools

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Tenn. House, Senate vote to lift ban on municipal schools

Tennessee SenateThe Tennessee General Assembly has voted to lift the ban on the creation of new municipal school districts statewide. Monday night the state House voted 70-24 to pass HB 1288, and the state Senate agreed to companion bill SB 1353 by a 24-5 margin.

If signed into law by Governor Haslam, any municipality in the state can hold a referendum to approve the creation of a new city school district, provided it has a sufficiently large population and meets other legal requirements specified in the Tennessee Code.

While similar laws previously had been enacted by the General Assembly allowing suburban communities to form new city school systems in certain circumstances, the Shelby County Commission challenged the constitutionality of their application. Federal judge Samuel Hardy Mays agreed, ruling that the laws were local in effect, applying only to the suburban municipalities in Shelby County, and were thus passed improperly. This new round of legislation lifts the ban statewide, allowing all Tennessee communities to consider the option.

Unless Judge Mays delays the merger, Bartlett schools will be part of the consolidated Memphis and Shelby County district for the 2013-2014 school year.

Jason Sykes WREG NashvilleBartlett Mayor Keith McDonald says the city plans to call for a new referendum on municipal schools to be held this summer, allowing school board members to be elected in September, and Bartlett schools to be a reality in 2014. That’s a hope shared by County Commissioner Chris Thomas, school board member David Reaves, and all of us at Better Bartlett Schools.

See video below: Continue reading

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Shelby County Commission budget retreat

This morning the Shelby County Commission held a budget retreat and invited members of the unified school board to discuss their budget request. Mayor Luttrell and members of his administration were on hand, as well as Shelby County Assessor Cheyenne Johnson and members of the media. See next page for live updates from Better Bartlett Schools. Continue reading

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Giving Bartlett a voice in Shelby County politics

ConventionThe local Democratic and Republican parties are about to hold their bi-annual caucuses and conventions to elect their leadership.

We encourage Bartlett citizens of both parties to be active participants in these meetings, to ensure that our voice is heard throughout the county.

The Republican Party of Shelby County will hold its Caucus this Monday, Feb. 25, at 6:30 pm. The Caucus will be held at Woodland Hills Event Center, located at 10000 Woodland Hills Drive in Cordova. At the Caucus, delegates from each precinct in Shelby County will be elected to attend the Convention. The Convention will be held on Sunday, March 24 at 2 p.m. at the Bartlett Station Municipal Center, where the delegates will elect the party’s leadership team. Those planning to attend the Caucus on Monday can visit the precinct locator for help verifying their precinct and locating the correct table. Caucus participants are encouraged to arrive early, as the doors to the facility will be closed and locked at 6:30 p.m.

No dates for the Shelby County Democratic Party Caucus and Convention have been announced publicly, but according to party by-laws, the Convention must be held “between the first of January and the fifteenth of May or as specified by the Democratic Party of Tennessee” and “delegates to the Biennial Convention shall be chosen at Ward and Precinct meetings held on the same day throughout the County at least 20 and not more than 40 days prior to the Convention.” The party’s last convention was held on April 9, 2011.

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Welcome a new member to our team: Jason Sykes

Jason SykesThe Committee for Better Bartlett Schools is pleased to announce that Jason Sykes has agreed to join our team.

Jason is well known in the Bartlett community, a young leader and community activist who was voted “2012 Man of the Year” by Bartlett Express Reader’s Choice for his impressive record of volunteer service and involvement.

Jason has been a vocal and active advocate for Bartlett schools from the beginning, and offering him a role on our steering committee was one of the last pieces of business proposed by the late Peter Martin, who passed away last month.

Jason’s service in a variety of roles on city commissions, chamber boards, associations and leadership groups brings a wealth of insight to our team, and his work with Lifeblood and experience as a candidate for Bartlett alderman will assist us as we continue to navigate this issue and reach out to the community.

Please join us in welcoming Jason Sykes to the Committee for Better Bartlett Schools.

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Monitoring news of negotiations, legal developments, decisions

The Committee for Better Bartlett Schools continues to monitor news and reports concerning the imminent merger of school systems in Shelby County, negotiations between state and suburban elected officials and the Shelby County Commission, developments in the unresolved legal challenges, and decisions being made by the “unified” school district.

Here are the latest developments:

Wissman-McDonald“The suburban argument refers to the possibility that the laws might apply [outside Shelby County] if one of the several special school districts in Carroll County surrendered its charter to the Carroll County Schools district” – Memphis suburbs file final brief in Shelby municipal schools lawsuit

Mayor McDonald “is optimistic that ongoing negotiations with the County Commission and Memphis City Council can yield a schools structure attractive to suburban citizens.” – Shelby County suburbs aim for schools agreement that can satisfy residents

“Advocates of a unified district need only go to the Better Bartlett Schools Facebook page, with the big banner of ‘WE DON’T SURRENDER,’ to see the determination many suburban residents continue to show for finding a way to avoid a permanent union with Memphis schools.” – Shelby suburban leaders: No municipal schools for 2013-14

“I think we have some pretty firm footing,” Mayor McDonald said. “I think everyone understands we still have a lot of friends in high places. This is only one of many possible steps.” – Progress made in schools mediation meeting

Commissioner Mike Ritz and Germantown school advocate Ken Hoover debate the meaning of “financial considerations.”

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Celebrating the work of two BBS committee members

Paula Sedgwick and Peter Martin

Paula Sedgwick and Peter Martin

The Committee for Better Bartlett Schools would like to take a moment to honor two founding members of our team, Peter Martin and Paula Sedgwick.

Peter C. Martin, who passed away on Friday, December 7, was President of the Greater Bartlett Council of Neighborhoods, a Marine, a well-known and respected community activist, and a very important member of our team. Pete was instrumental in keeping our committee in touch with elected officials and other local leaders, and he was always on top of the latest developments in the fight for municipal schools. He was passionate about the future of Bartlett and Bartlett schools, even though he had no school-age children. We will miss his heart and his tireless advocacy on behalf of our children and our community.

Paula Sedgwick is stepping down from an official capacity on our committee, having been recently sworn in as Bartlett Alderman in Position 6. Paula was part of our very first planning meeting, and helped guide the formation and direction of Better Bartlett Schools. She helped us plan our town hall forum and other public meetings, and we benefited from her close relationships with state and local elected officials. In her campaign, Paula put the issue of Bartlett schools front and center, and we look forward to her continued leadership on education in her new position as a member of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

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Judge Mays rules municipal schools law void

The movement for municipal school districts was dealt another setback tonight.

According to the Commercial Appeal, “U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays has issued a ruling stopping Shelby County’s suburban municipalities from proceeding in their quest to begin operating municipal school districts in time for the 2013-14 school year.”

The 65-page ruling can be viewed in its entirety here.

Judge Mays determined that the state law passed this year to allow municipal districts to open in the 2013 school year was “in effect” targeted at Shelby County only, in violation of the state Constitution, and thus void. Bartlett and the other municipalities may not continue to establish school systems under Public Chapter 905. The school board elections were also declared void.

If the defendants do not appeal this ruling, municipal schools will likely be delayed at least one additional year.

The plaintiffs (the County Commission) may submit additional arguments to the judge by December 11 dealing with the state constitutionality of other parts of the law that have not yet been reviewed by the court. The defendants (the State and the municipalities) may respond by December 27.

A second aspect of the trial continues as scheduled on January 3, 2013, dealing with a “resegregation” claim and challenges based on the U.S. Constitution.

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Meet the new Bartlett School Board

Bartlett School Board

Please join us in offering congratulations to our newly elected Bartlett School Board members:

This is a very talented group of professionals, and we look forward to working with them to build an excellent school system in Bartlett.

We offer them our thanks for the hours they have already committed for the benefit of Bartlett children and families — as activists, as members of the Bartlett Education Advisory Committee, and as candidates — and for the role they will play in the months and years ahead.

Congratulations also to Alderman-elect Paula Sedgwick, and to the other candidates who offered themselves up in this election. We appreciate your willingness to serve and hope you will continue to play a role in the success of Bartlett’s school district.

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Bartlett School Board Candidates

The Commercial Appeal has released its 2012 voter guide, featuring profiles of each of the candidates in contested Bartlett School Board races.

The Committee for Better Bartlett Schools has also asked each of the candidates to submit a brief profile. These profiles will be available on our School Board Candidates page, and will be posted as they are received.

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