Panel sessions to add more depth to Signal Mountain school split discussion

Panel sessions to add more depth to Signal Mountain school split discussion

November 22nd, 2017 by Myron Madden in Community Signal Mountain

The Signal Mountain school system viability committee presents their report to the town council Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Photo by Rosana Hughes /Times Free Press.

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Two community groups on opposite sides of the Signal Mountain school split debate are holding separate Q&A sessions in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Nov. 28, Stay With HCDE is hosting a public forum with representatives from the town of Signal Mountain in the theater at Signal Mountain Middle/High School.

The group has invited all members of the town council to sit on its panel, as well as Town Manager Boyd Veal and Town Attorney Phil Noblett.

So far, Vice Mayor Dick Gee and Councilman Dan Landrum are the only two to confirm their attendance, said Stay With HCDE representative Elizabeth Baker.

Though the group was formed in opposition to leaving county schools, members say everyone is invited and they are hoping to hear questions from

individuals on both sides of the issue. The discussion will be moderated by WRCB Channel 3 news anchor David Carroll.

"This isn't about our side or their side," said Baker, a Signal Mountain resident. "It's strictly about residents, no matter what their opinion, having the ability to be heard by council members."

The meeting comes as a way to expedite the public comment portion of the process to investigate the proposed split. Town officials said they first wanted to educate residents and themselves on the School System Viability Committee's final report and other facts related to potential ramifications of creating a school district.

"People equally on both sides want to be heard by their council members," Baker said. "We were hearing more and more from residents that they weren't happy waiting until January or February to be able to do that."

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 4, the ad hoc committee of mountain residents that initially posed the idea of forming a separate school district is holding a similar panel discussion in the town hall gymnasium.

The group, now called Friends of Signal Mountain Schools, has invited three superintendents from Memphis-area municipal school districts to answer questions about their separation from Shelby County Schools in 2014.

Panelists are John Aitken of Collierville Schools, Jason Manuel of Germantown Municipal Schools and Tammy Mason of Arlington Community Schools. Valerie Speakman, who provided legal counsel for the municipalities during the split and now serves as general counsel for Arlington Community Schools, will also sit on the panel.

Friends of Signal Mountain Schools member Rob Hensley said the intent of the meeting is for attendees to hear firsthand the pros and cons of creating a municipal school system.

"We can try our best to answer those questions, but in reality it's best if they were asked of those folks in Shelby County," said SSVC member Tom McCullough, who was also part of the initial ad hoc group.

Hensley said the goal is not for panelists to advocate for or against breaking away from Hamilton County Schools, but only to share their experience.

"This isn't about them saying 'this is what Signal Mountain needs to do' or anything else," Hensley said.

That meeting also begins at 6:30 p.m. The discussion will be moderated by Signal Mountain Judge Tracy Cox.