Shelby County Schools board calls for improved tracking system, discusses splitting property in demerger

Shelby County board members have asked district officials to provide a timeline and a cost estimate for an entirely revamped process for tracking its assets before the board’s next work session.

Last December, the first audit of Shelby County Schools’ possessions in years found over $48 million worth of assets missing.

Board member David Pickler says he’s surprised it wasn’t more: As it turns out, for three years, between 2005 and 2008, legacy Memphis City Schools was not properly tracking its items at all.

“If I wanted to order iPads for my buddies, I could have have ordered 210 instead of 200 and we wouldn’t have known,” said board chair Kevin Woods at a meeting of the Shelby County board’s audit committee Tuesday.

Board members Woods, Pickler, and Chris Caldwell were focused on next steps at Tuesday’s meeting. Both legacy Shelby County Schools and legacy Memphis City Schools were missing items, according to the recent audit. The two districts were merged last July and are now preparing for the creation of six new school districts carved out of the boundaries of legacy Shelby County Schools and the transfer of buildings and objects to those new districts.

“My honest assessment is, all this inventory is not going to be found,” Woods said. He said the board should move forward to ensure that there was a better process in place.

Pickler supported Woods’ idea. “Instead of trying to beat the proverbial dead horse, we should put the focus on acknowledging that we have a problem, creating a solution, and as we’re doing that make sure we meet our legal obligations and other obligations, especially as we’re about to transfer 33 very large assets and hundreds of others,” Pickler said. Pickler was referring to plans to transfer 33 buildings to six new suburban school districts being formed in the Memphis suburbs.

Pickler said some of his goals were “to bring forward to the board and superintendent some recommendations about policy issues, procedures, and putting in place a system and transparency structure. Then I think we can eventually have a report of what we really have per school.”

Pickler previously encouraged district officials not to spend time defending against the findings, but rather to locate items and improve their process.

Board members told district officials they did want the names of personnel associated with various objects, to ensure there had been no wrongdoing.

Melvin Burgess, the district’s director of audit, said his department would prepare a timeline and estimate for board members. He said recommended a return to a centralized tracking process. “Right now everyone is buying everything and we’re not catching who’s buying what,” he said.

He said of tracking items, “I’ve been with the district 25 years, and some things I saw, it wasn’t even an issue of tracking. For instance, you might have a delivery of equipment in summertime. The deliveryman puts it in the office, it’s not manned, and it walks away. There are so many factors. We have badges now, but people don’t follow the rules sometimes.”

Board member Pickler said the district needed to change its culture and attitude toward tracking its assets. “We are a government agency…We need to move into latter part of 20th century with how we’re doing this.”

Board member Caldwell said,”We should commit funds if we need extra people to get this right.”

Pickler said he hoped the district would have a timeline by June 1, and a new system in place by the end of August, when the district’s board will turn over due to the creation of the new school districts.

Board members cited FedEx and Autozone as local organizations with expertise in tracking objects that might be able to advise the district.

Transfers to Municipalities

How to effectively transfer items from Shelby County Schools to the new municipal districts was also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.

Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson II will meet with superintendents from the municipal districts next week to discuss plans to separate the districts. “We’re referring to it as the reverse TPC,” Pickler said, referring to the Transition Planning Commission that facilitated the merger of Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools.

Each of the 33 schools that will be transferred from Shelby County Schools to a municipal district next year provided a list of items currently in their buildings to the county school system. Those reports had not yet been cross-checked with the district’s own audit of the materials by Tuesday.

Those 33 buildings were the first to be audited, Burgess said.

Board members sought to clarify expectations and legal obligations as the items are transferred between districts. Caldwell recommended that the district seek legal advice and ensure that the district and municipalities communicated about expectations.

But they were clear that all items in the 33 schools would remain with the municipalities.

“We’re committed with this transfer of facilities that the items will remain with the kids they intended to serve,” Woods said.


Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.