Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Millington school support group pushing for candidates

A group of grass roots Millington school supporters are making sure there are candidates for each of the suburb's seven school board positions in November, but say there is no intent to discourage other candidates from seeking the offices.

Members of the nonprofit People for the Advancement of Millington Schools met with some of the candidates last Saturday morning. What emerged by Monday was a list of seven candidates for the school board positions on the Nov. 6 ballot. Millington is the only suburb with seven seats. The other suburbs plan on five-member school boards.

The qualifying deadline for the school board races is noon Thursday.

The suburban schools matter moved forward Aug. 2 when all six outlying cities — Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington — overwhelmingly approved referendums to establish separate municipal school districts in their cities. All of the cities, except Millington, also approved a one-half cent bump in the local option sales tax rate to help fund the systems. Millington voters rejected that referendum by three votes — a calculation still disputed by Millington officials because of questions regarding some Lucy residents not officially annexed into Millington voting on the referendums.

The municipal school system issue still faces a legal battle before U.S. Dist. Judge Samuel "Hardy" Mays.

Doug Dakin, co-chairman of People for the Advancement of Millington Schools, said members are supporting candidates as individuals, but P.A.M.S. will not endorse a slate of school board candidates. He was not surprised the question arose, and denied that they are discouraging other candidates.

"We would never step on somebody's right to run for something. That's just ridiculous," Dakin said.

Before the Aug. 2 referendum approval, the Election Commission agreed to allow suburban school board candidates to pick up petitions because of the tight two-week window between the votes and Thursday's qualifying deadline for the Nov. 6 ballot. However, in Millington, only three candidates pulled petitions before the referendum, and, as of Monday afternoon, the Shelby County Election Commission website showed just nine candidates had requested petitions for Millington School Board races.

One of those who pulled a petition in July — Paula Landrum — said Monday, she has decided not to run.

"I've decided I would be able to serve better by supporting some of the others that were pulling, so I'm not actually going to be running in that race," Landrum said. "We've got seven others who have already pulled petitions. Rather than putting competition out there, I would rather go ahead and support one of them."

She added that the seven candidates "are people that are of one mind that are willing to take those positions."

Millington Mayor Linda Carter declined to comment on the slate of candidates that appeared to emerge from the weekend. She said the city's goal is simply to help get the school system operating.

Dakin said some of the seven are members of the P.A.M.S. group, but emphasized the pro-schools organization is not taking a unified stance, and is not trying to dictate the Nov. 6 elections. He also said the group would not be donating money to any candidates.

"If anything, what is orchestrated on our behalf, is to make sure we have at least seven people running." Dakin said. "We did not want to look stupid again like we did with the tax issues — voting for schools and not voting to pay for them. We didn't want to have that egg on our face again as a community. If nothing else, it was: 'Look we've got to have seven people, so let's find some people to run."

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