Archive for ‘Education’

June 23, 2014

To pass the culture along, or not?

The Culture

A few months ago a magazine asked the question if, outside of the sciences and technology, have our achievements improved over those of our grandparents’ era?

Inspired by that question, the conversationalists discuss the state of the American (U.S.A.) culture and if it is one we would want to inculcate in our children and grandchildren.

The focus shifts along several fronts, from educational institutions, to the media, to religion and Biblical influences on the culture.

This topic, in particular, seems to be incomplete without further civil and informed debate among other people. So, as always, the participants in this recorded conversation encourage listeners to continue the discussion with their family, friends, and acquaintances.

Length: 36 minutes, 16 seconds.

May 1, 2014

Concussions, Cash, and Conduct in American Football

football-ballIs U.S. American football a game that has gone too far? Are recent revelations of the risk of permanent brain injury due to concussions sufficient to curtail the game? Has the huge sum of money involved, particularly in college and professional football programs, adversely affected the coaches, players and spectators? If so, have we abandoned ethical conduct for the entertainment value? The conversationalists kick these topics around as we discuss the game of, the business of, and the consequences of football.

Length 29 minutes, 1 second.

January 11, 2014

Behind the School Walls After Unification: An Insight

classroom-genericWhat is it like in the schools and how is that different in the unified school district compared to the separate Memphis city and Shelby County districts? We took the wonderful opportunity December 14, 2013, to get first hand answers to that question when White Station High School senior Grace Hugueley joined us to explore that question. Her father, Darrell Hugueley, is one of our regular conversationalists and is a teacher at White Station High School. So we got perspectives from student and teacher.

Some of the observations are that food is better, security is about the same, morale is better than expected. We also talk about differences between optional school classes and regular classes, which can be dramatic, and about academics and discipline in the schools now compared to decades ago.

We invite you to listen to our conversation, then engage in the conversation with those you know.

Length: 1 hour, 5 minutes, 51 seconds

December 8, 2013

Control of suburban school buildings: county or municipality?

In late November and early December, five of the six suburban Memphis cities have come to agreement with the County Commission and Shelby County School Board regarding the future ownership and use of the school buildings within their boundaries and requesting the federal district court to dismiss a lawsuit over the issue of suburban school districts. The City of Germantown, however, in which there are eight Shelby County Schools has not reached such an agreement and is arguing for possession of those all those schools. The Shelby County system, however, says that because high percentages of the pupils in three of those schools live in the City of Memphis or unincorporated areas, it wants to keep and operate them as county schools. This is a major issue for Germantown, as the county wants to continue to operate its three namesake schools in question: Germantown Elementary, Germantown Middle, and Germantown High.

In A Memphis Conversation, our panelists discuss the ownership and operation of the schools at issue. The community, governments, and school boards seem to have different points of view and that holds true for our conversationalists.

Length: 42 minutes, 14 seconds

Note: As of December 16, 2013, all the suburban municipal governments of Millington, Lakeland, Bartlett, Arlington,  Collierville, Germantown, the Shelby County Commission, and the Shelby County School Board have reached agreements which cover the ownership and control of school buildings within the limits of the suburban municipalities. The agreements provide that the school buildings to be deeded to the suburban school districts are for $10 upon condition the suburban municipalities provide a local education authority for at least 25 years and the dropping of the pending federal lawsuit over suburban schools. The agreements also calls for the municipalities to provide payments to Shelby County Schools for the purposes of retiree health and life insurance liabilities in the amounts listed below:
Lakeland: $676,044 over a period of 12 years at $56,337 a year,
Arlington: $3.9 million over a period of 12 years at $333,333 a year,
Bartlett:  $7.2 million over 12 years at $608,000 a year,
Collierville: $6 million over 12 years at $507,819 a year,
Millington:  $2.7 million over 12 years at $230,219 a year,
Germantown: 4.3 million over 12 years at $355,453 a year.


November 16, 2013

Raise taxes for pre-kindergarten classes or seek to encourage the roll of parents in preparing their children for kindergarten?

Mailer distributed by pre-k sales tax advocates

Mailer distributed by pre-k sales tax advocates

Update: Unofficial results on the referendum vote:
No 17,636  (60.2%)
Yes 11,659 (39.8%)

On November 21, 2013, voters in Memphis, Tennessee, will have the opportunity in a referendum to implement, or not, a one-half cent increase in the local sales tax in order to fund a city government created pre-kindergarten program with any money remaining from that revenue stream not used for pre-k going to lowering the property tax rate.  On November 16 our three regular conversationalists discussed the property tax hike proposal, the need for pre-k in the city, and the value of pre-k education. Is it wise for the city to undertake such an endeavor?

Length: 44 minutes, 2 seconds.

BONUS MATERIAL: If you listened to the above conversation you know some of the issues involved. Now you can listen to a proponent of the referendum, Dr. Barbara Prescott, and an opponent of it, Rev. Kenneth Whalum, Jr. Both of the speakers are former members of the Memphis School Board. The League of Women Voters of  Memphis and Shelby County sponsored a forum at the central library in Memphis the evening of November 18, 2013. The following is the discussion. Length 1 hour, 28 minutes.

Problem listening to the above audio? See the alternative below.
Alternative: it is noticed that often when attempting to play the above audio the player remains in a “buffering” state beyond a reasonable time. Alternatively, if your system is configured to do so, you may listen to the audio by directly accessing the file at In our testing, this method played the audio promptly.

October 26, 2013

Public education: Common Core State Standards

Where do you set the bar, and who sets the bar, in public education standards?

A Memphis Conversation takes up the issue of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in our schools.

According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the purpose of the standards is to provide, in the United States of America, books-cutout-sma consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.

States may choose whether to adopt the standards or not. According to the proponents, five states and the territory of Puerto Rico have not adopted the standards, although there is continuing debate in some states that have adopted the standards.

Tennessee adopted the standards and public schools are implementing them, including the Shelby County Schools, which now includes the primary and secondary public schools in the city of Memphis.

While testing is separate from the standards, it appears generally agreed that nationally standardized testing will be used to measure academic achievement under the CCSS. The most common testing initiative and the one with which Tennessee is participating is the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC). The state will engage in field evaluation of the PARCC tests in the 2013-14 school year and plans to fully implement the PARCC testing in the 2014-2015 academic year.

This conversation is among Eddie Settles, Darrell Hugueley, and Ken Welch and was recorded October 19, 2013.

Length: 1 hour, 3 minutes.

Tennessee Common Core State Standards web site
The Common Core State Standards Initiative web site
Tennessee Against Common Core web site
Tennessee Senate hearing on Common Core video (Sept. 20, 2013)
Tennessee Senate hearing on Common Core video  of reading some of the standards (Sept. 19, 2013 (a rather tedious experience)
Back in River City
Tennessee Dept. of Education Common Core History & Fact Sheet

April 3, 2013

2013 Tennessee School Voucher Bill Not Advanced

April 3, 2013- State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) late this afternoon asked that the governor’s school voucher bill, for which he was the prime sponsor in the Senate, not be considered further by the Education Committee. During the last hours of the last schedule meeting of that committee for this year, Norris sent a letter to committee chairwoman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), asking that the committee take no further action on the proposal at this time.

This appears to kill the bill for this session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Governor Bill Haslam has said that he wished the bill to be considered as filed, without amendments. Some Republican legislators wanted to expand the coverage of the voucher bill or otherwise lessen restrictions but Haslam made it clear he would withdraw the bill rather than let it be amended.

We note this legislative news because elsewhere in this blog we indicate observers had thought there was a good chance for passage of some form of school voucher bill this year in Tennessee.

March 31, 2013

School Vouchers: are they right for Tennessee?

If you want to start a vigorous discussion gather a few people together and bring up the idea of school vouchers. Vouchers is a common term devouchers-classroom-bscribing programs in which state/local money that traditionally would have gone to a public school in which a student enrolled can follow the pupil even if he/she chooses to go to a private school.

Several states have implemented school voucher programs. The Tennessee General Assembly is currently considering such a proposal from Governor Bill Haslam.

In this conversation recorded March 30, 2013, Eddie Settles explores some of the issues concerning school vouchers with Darrell Hugueley and Ken Welch.


Length: 1 hour, 45 seconds


The subject of school vouchers is full of important elements. An hour’s discussion hardly does it justice.

That’s where you come in. A Memphis Conversation is just that, one of many. If you’ve listened, you’ve heard part of our conversation (we kept talking for a couple of hours more). Now it’s your turn. Talk about this and other important subjects, in a civil manner of course, with your family, friends, work acquaintances, even others who you may not know but who are concerned about our civic responsibility to inform ourselves. Encourage those who are inclined not to address important subjects to join you in considering these matters.

Among the important aspects of the discussion I do not think we had time to mention are the following:

  • legislative observers believe there is a good chance this year for a school voucher bill to be enacted into law in Tennessee;
  • the Shelby County School Board, currently the 23 members panel that governs both Memphis and Shelby County schools (which become one school district this summer), is on record opposing any legislation or other efforts by the Tennessee General Assembly to implement a program designed to provide students with a taxpayer-funded opportunity scholarship/tuition vouchers to attend a non-public school of their choice;
  • the Tennessee Education Association, as well as the Memphis Education Association which is the union representing Memphis City School teachers, opposes school vouchers;
  • the governor’s proposal caps the number of vouchers for the 2013-2014 school year at 5,000, 7,500 the second year, 10,000 the third year, and 20,000 the fourth year of the program but there are proposals among legislators to amend the bill to increase or remove the limits.


Read a summary of the voucher bill

Read the voucher bill as filed in the Tennessee Senate

View the Tennessee K-12 & School Choice Survey referenced during the conversation

The Shelby County School Board 2013 Legislative Agenda resolution (see page 7)

— Ken Welch

March 25, 2013

Discipline, Not Panic – Doomed, Surviving, or Thriving Schools Ahead?

settles-eddie-kwanis-smWill it be doom, survival or thriving for public education in Memphis and Shelby County?

Those are three scenarios outlined by one of our esteemed participants on this blog, Eddie Settles, as he spoke before a meeting of the Germantown Kiwanis Club February 21, 2013. Eddie presented his view of the facts surrounding the budget situation for the Shelby County Schools 2013-2014 fiscal year. Effective July 1, the Shelby County School district will include what has been Memphis City Schools. The two districts are already governed by a single Board of Education. He encouraged the members to become involved.

Listen to Eddie Settles presentation before the Germantown Kiwanis Club. He is introduced by a member of the club.

Length 22:03

July 30, 2012

Education dominates local election and our conversation

“law of unintended consequences, ”  $15-million more in school “savings,” does it affect Mississippi, Arkansas, West Tennessee,  neighbors’ separated, jaywalking — just some of the aspects touched upon in this discussion

Ken and Eddie

Ken & Eddie

Eddie Settles and Ken Welch engaged in A Memphis Conversation July 28, 2012. Once again it seems the pending merger of the city and county school districts and the imminent election of 7 board of education members is a major concern in the community.  Apparently that includes Eddie and Ken because that’s mostly what they talk about in this edition of A Memphis Conversation.

We hope you will listen to A Memphis Conversation and it will encourage you to engage in conversations with those you know about important public issues.


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Length:  1 hour 56 minutes

Technical note for Firefox users: Mozilla reports that some users are having repeated crashes of the Flash player used to play the audio. “Adobe has recently updated Flash to version 11.3. Some users have reported that this version of Flash is crashing more frequently than previous versions of Flash. If you are experiencing excess crashes, please downgrade to Flash 10.3 or Flash 11.2.”  See