MEMPHIS, TN - Educate. Not advocate. Finding unbiased information about the MCS charter surrender issue is complicated these days. But a Monday night informational meeting at First Baptist Church in Midtown sought to change that.
"Some people feel overwhelmed," says community activist Ryan Tracy.
His group, "Stand For Children" is actively part of the conversation about school consolidation. Tracy, Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, and Jackson Baker, political analyst and senior editor at The Memphis Flyer, were the panelists for the latest forum.
"A lot of people in Memphis," Tracy tells abc24.com, "still want more information. So forums like this are good for people to get good, solid information."
Gretchen Stroud showed up to listen to the dialogue, even though she already early voted "yes" in the referendum. She has a son in Memphis City Schools and wants to learn as much as she can about the potential and massive merger of city and county schools.
"I think it's a really important question," Stroud tells abc24.com. "I hope people are weighing their vote carefully, because it has a huge impact on a lot of children."
With the March 8th election just 15 days away, the time to soak up knowledge is now. Undecided voter Harry Greer has his eye on the bottom line.
"I'm hoping they'll explain to me," says Greer, "how this organization, if it is consolidated, how it will be organized, run and how will the money be spent?"
Bottom line for Ryan Tracy is much simpler: engage as many people as possible in a discussion critical to Memphis and Shelby County's future.
"Whether the merger occurs or not," says Tracy, "how can we keep this fire stoked for Memphis? How can we get people to really look at education and say all our babies, all our kids, deserve a fair education?"
Several current and retired Memphis City Schools teachers attended the forum, but declined to comment to abc24.com. They showed up to get information about salaries, health insurance and benefits.
The Memphis Education Association, the union representing 6,000 MCS teachers, has come out in opposition to the merger. The Shelby County Education Assocation, which represents more than 3,000 teachers in the Shelby County School system, is also against school consolidation.