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May 25 Interview with Shelby Co. Mayor Mark Luttrell

June 12, 2012

“The destiny of our children will be invested in the less than 15% of the people who vote.”  Mark Luttrell

We were honored to have Shelby Co. Mayor Mark Luttrell on our May 25, 2012 show to share his views on the consolidation of the Memphis and Shelby County school systems. Mayor Luttrell revealed that he began his professional life as a public school teacher. His parents also taught school.  As a member of the Transition Planning Commission (TPC), Mayor Luttrell has been in the thick of the consolidation process. As the chief executive officer of Shelby County, he currently sees 362 million tax dollars each year devoted to the education of our children.

How well will your contribution to that $362 million line item be administered by the new superintendent and unified school board members? How much will the schoolchildren in your life benefit from those funds?

Mayor Luttrell calls us all to do three things:

1. Vote on August 2. In the past, school board elections have been determined by fewer than 15% of registered Shelby County voters.  This election is too critical for the future of Greater Memphis to allow so few to determine so much. Even if you do not presently have children in a local public school, if you live in Greater Memphis, you’ve got skin in the game.

2.Become educated about the candidates. An uninformed vote is no better (and potentially worse) than not voting.  Scrutinize the candidates in your district and make sure you know who has the best skills and deepest commitment for the job.  Back in River City is preparing  a free Voter’s Guide to help you make that decision. Eddie will be interviewing all candidates in Districts 1-6 (Billy Orgel is unopposed in District 7) on Friday Viewpoint with Eddie Settles (Bott Radio Network AM 640) beginning June 22 at 3:00 p.m..

3. Hold your commissioner accountable. According to Mayor Luttrell, an effective school board commissioner will be one who listens to the public — parents, teachers, voters in general — and balances voters’ views with his/her own intuition before making decisions. We can and must keep school board members accountable to all constituents by engaging them in frequent public discussions.

If you missed our interview with Mayor Mark Luttrell on May 25, 2012,   you can hear  it all here:

Friday Viewpoint 05-25-12

Mayor Luttrell has graciously agreed to answer any questions  Back in River City readers have about the schools consolidation process and probable outcomes. What is your question for Mayor Luttrell? Post  in the comments section below.

Friday May 25 Show: Mayor Mark Luttrell

May 21, 2012

It’s show time again, Memphis! This Friday at 3:00 p.m. on AM 640 I am honored to have as my guest Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

Tune in to “Friday Viewpoint with Eddie Settles” to hear Mayor Luttrell give me his thoughts on these issues:

1. What is the biggest challenge facing the merged Memphis-Shelby Co. Board of Education?

2. What criteria should Shelby County voters use to select new school board members on August 2?

3. What criteria should the school board use as a basis to recruit and select the new Superintendent for the consolidated system?

4. How should voters decide whether the new Superintendent and school board members are effectively doing their jobs?

What question or issue would you like to hear Mayor Luttrell address? Post it here!

Q&A with Billy Orgel: Your Questions about Consolidated Memphis-Shelby Co. Schools Answered!

May 16, 2012

Here are this week’s answers to your questions from Shelby Co. School Board Chairman Billy Orgel:

Q. 1. From  Cordova teacher Darrell Hugueley:

MCS has done a tremendous amount of work with the TEI (Teacher Effectiveness Initiative), including restructuring teacher evaluations, revising teacher compensation and teacher leadership roles, developing teacher support strategies, and establishing the LEI (Leadership Effectiveness Initiative). In spite of the gap in leadership with the resignation of Dr. Hamer and the potential loss of Dr. Cash, and in light of the commitment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to continue its support of this important work, how open are SCS and TPC leaders to continuing the forward momentum of the TEI?

Billy Orgel’s answer:

Both administrations are working diligently on a request from the Gates (Foundation) to show ten how we can expand the effort of TEI  to Shelby County Schools. Everyone seems to be supportive of a continuing role in the unified system for this initiative.

Q. 2. From a 25-year MCS high school teacher:

Memphis City Schools no longer permit corporal punishment.  Shelby County Schools do. I have been a teacher in MCS for 25 years and have experienced the difference in discipline under both policies.

Now I can only process paperwork. The erring student gets suspended–which just amounts to a free day from school.  When corporal punishment was allowed in MCS, it really was a deterrent to misbehavior.  How will the many conflicting policies like these be reconciled in the unified district? It hardly seems possible in so short a time.  And what will be the policy on corporal punishment?

Billy Orgel’s answer:

We are working through the Transition Planning Commission who is recommending a blue print for the merged District. To my knowledge corporal punishment has not been addressed. We have a full school year ahead of us to reconcile policies.

What’s your question for Billy Orgel?  Submit in the Comments section below and we will publish his answer in a future post at Back in River City.

Generations of Roses

May 12, 2012

Growing up in Memphis, Mother’s Day meant wearing red roses to church.  I continued the tradition wherever I lived – Dallas, Houston, Austin, Nashville, Monteagle – long after everyone else abandoned it. Traditions count in my family.

Last year Eddie and I came back to Memphis for Mother’s Day weekend.  It was especially important to be here because my mother had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma six months earlier. The cancer was said to be slow growing, and she had responded well to chemotherapy. That said, she had suffered from spinal stenosis for years. A failed laminectomy brought more pain and quashed her vitality.  I knew it might be the last Mother’s Day with my mom. Our original plan was to come down from Monteagle on Friday, but I received an unexpected call on Thursday. Mother had just been hospitalized.  We rushed down immediately.

I was told on arrival that her long-term internist wanted to see my two sisters and me the next morning. At that meeting, he told us that she had suffered an embolism. Both he and Mother’s oncologist saw dim prospects for recovery.  How long?  Two weeks, he guessed. He recommended that she be discharged into hospice care.

I wore a red rose to church last Mother’s Day. Tomorrow it will be white.  It has been a hard 12 months.

Losing your mom is one of life’s universal sorrows.

Being a mom is surely  life’s greatest joy.

Today was destined to be a day of sadness and remembrance.  Instead,  my heart took flight. It soared. It leaped. It bounded. Because Nelson, my all-grown-up-son, paid me a surprise Mother’s Day visit from Nashville. He had in hand a mushy card that made me cry and two Schola Pacis CD’s. And then we talked for ten hours – Mommy nirvana!

Let’s see. Among scores of other topics, we covered girlfriends (current, former, and prospective), the literal Greek meaning of the word sophomore (ten points if you know it), Jon Stewart’s take on Tennessee’s new sex education law, Nelson’s Billy Idol costuming for a recent ’80’s party, Rush Limbaugh’s gaffe confusing a Classics college major (that is, Classical Languages) with English Lit, and the very best of the YouTube muppet videos.

Which I’m including here, because I totally agree, and it’s kind of a Mother’s Day gift in itself. (You’ll understand when you watch it.)

The Best Muppets Video

It was a great day.

Tomorrow, on Mother’s Day, I will think of my mother with great love. I will sit by my son in church. I will wear a white rose (if Kroger even has any) and shed tears when I look at his red rose and wonder why even in Memphis, no one wears roses on Mother’s Day anymore.

Happy Mother’s Day, mothers everywhere. If yours is still in life, tell her you love her.  She may know it, but she still needs to hear it.

Music Saturday! Enjoy and Be Blessed

May 5, 2012

Just for your enjoyment, Schola Pacis singing Springs of Water.

Schola Pacis is a male a cappella sacred choral group in Nashville. Amazingly, one of these talented and handsome men has been known to call me Mom. God is good!

Click here:


Ask Billy Orgel — A Back in River City Exclusive!

May 2, 2012

Whether you’re a parent, teacher, retiree, KIPSO (Kids in Private Schools Only), or a SNOK (Single, No Kids)–remember, you’ve got skin in the game of schools consolidation.  The quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of our local schools fuel the Greater Memphis economic engine and influence the quality of our everyday lives.


The future of Memphis depends on our getting this right.

We know you have questions about schools consolidation and how it will affect your life.  It’s a complicated process, with many moving parts. So we asked Billy Orgel if he would help our readers get answers to those questions that are buzzing around in your head like mosquitoes on a dusky veranda.

Got a question?  Write it in the Comments section. Make it concise, please.  We will pass the best on to Billy and post his personal responses. You may also email us at

“We need a unifier.” Interview with Billy Orgel, Part 2

April 29, 2012

Miss Friday’s show?  Not a problem!  Catch it here:

04-27-12 Part 2 Interview with Billy Orgel

Find out Billy’s views on parental choice, open access to great schools, and more about the top qualities the next Superintendent of Shelby County Schools should have.

Stay  tuned for more answers from Billy Orgel.

Pray for our schools.  Pray for Memphis!

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