Germantown's back door option - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Germantown's back door option

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (FOX13) -

FOX13 News has learned of a back door plan involving Tennessee state law that could enable Germantown to keep their embattled school buildings.

At present is a fight between the suburb and the Shelby County Schools over those school buildings. Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy and the city of Germantown might keep them if the school buildings become charter schools.

It was one of the glaring weaknesses of the now defunct 23-member city-county merger school board. Too many issues ended up in votes where members didn't even know what they were voting on.

But board member David Pickler always did.

MORE: Germantown mayor fights for 8 schools
MORE: SCS votes to keep 3 Germantown schools
MORE: SCS bracing for student exodus to municipal districts            
MORE: Germantown parents voice concern over SCS retaining schools
MORE: SCS: District needs 3 Germantown school buildings
MORE: Germantown parents voice concern over SCS retaining schools

Though he was among those absent from the SCS school board's facilities committee meeting Wednesday, it didn't mean Pickler's mind wasn't on the continuing negotiations with Germantown over school buildings.

"I don't think we need to call the roll. We can see who's here."

Contacted by phone at a speaking engagement with national educators in Idaho, Pickler's thoughts were on an admitted back door plan he says Germantown leaders could use to turn public schools into charter schools and keep their buildings.

Pickler says the during meetings of the transition planning commission in the spring of 2012, the group's facilities committee, which he headed, set up a program called the Multiple Achievement Path. Part of the plan, which was later voted on and passed by the then 23-member school was that the system agreeing to work with declared non-profit charter management organizations. The acronym, CMOS.

"It could be for example the Germantown Education Foundation," Pickler said. "They would have the ability under Tennessee law ... that, if a majority of the parents or a majority of the teachers in a particular school, were to vote in favor of converting their school from a public school to a public charter school, that they could make application to the local board of education for their school to convert to a charter school.

"The presumption across the state has been once that school converts to a charter, then the building would go along with the charter," Pickler added.

Pickler admits some SCS board members back then probably didn't even know they'd voted in favor of the measure. Certainly, SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson was unfamiliar with the charter school possibility for Germantown when FOX13 News asked him about it during Gov. Bill Haslam's visit Thursday to Memphis.

"I'm not familiar with any plan for charter schools or anything like that," Superintendent Hopson said. "Ultimately we just want to have good schools where the schools hopefully end up serving will be determined by the board."

"I've spoken with the chairman of the State Legislature, Tennessee Education Committee, who is actually the author of the legislation that would permit this," Pickler said. "He has confirmed that this absolutely is an option that can be considered."

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