School Charter Showdown: OYSI Obtain Internal Email

On February 16, 2011, in News 2011, by Mark Norris
February 16, 2011


Mayor Wharton asked for help from Nashville
Mayor said he wanted the General Assembly to pass a bill to help with a transition
Wharton says he asked for help, but what Nashville delivered is far from what he had in mind

(MEMPHS 2/16/2011) — Mayor Wharton maintains, when it comes to the school charter showdown, he hasn’t wavered. “To the degree that you’re looking for some inconsistency, it simply isn’t there,” Wharton says.

Senator Mark Norris says Wharton asked for a law outlining a plan for a potential school merger, and that’s what Nashville delivered.

Norris points to a January 4th news conference in the Hall of Mayors at Memphis City Hall. It was a joint conference held by Wharton and County Mayor Mark Luttrell in which they laid out a “plan for an orderly transition of school operations.”

Wharton told reporters during that news conference that there is a detailed method on the books to govern a school transition, but the law does not cover the type of merger that would result from surrender of the MCS Charter.

Wharton said he wanted the Tennessee General Assembly to pass a law to apply to Memphis and Shelby County.

Later in the month, Mayor Wharton’s team continued to talk about getting help from Nashville. An internal email, obtained by the On Your Side Investigators, talks about a “post vote remedy.” The email was sent on January 29, 2011 from Wharton’s top aide to the Redwing Group. Mayor Wharton also received a copy of the email. The email talks about the need for a law in which the local education agencies would come up with a transition plan.

When Mayor Wharton gathered the media last Friday to discuss the Norris-Todd Bill, he said he was disappointed but not surprised that Governor Haslam signed the bill. He was critical of Nashville getting involved in Memphis business.

“Only when Memphis City Schools, whether you agree with that decision, followed a law that’s been on the books for decades all of the sudden that law has to be changed,” Wharton said during the news conference.

Wharton says he did ask for help, but the bill Nashville delivered is far from what he had in mind. “The bottom line is I wanted post merger help, nothing to interfere with the certainty of the merger,” Wharton said Wednesday. Wharton says the Norris-Todd Bill could very well interfere. He says the bill sets up a planning team to favor suburban interests, and then in the end opens the door to special school districts.

“What we disapprove of now is that the bill leaves it wide open as to whether there will be a merger or not,” Wharton says.


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