Adamsville Mayor responds on the building of new schools in the county
By Jeff Whitten
Disagreement between Adamsville Mayor David Leckner and the McNairy County Board of Education and especially its Chairman, Larry Smith, is nothing new.
At the August meeting of the school board, he spoke about the overcrowding at Adamsville Elementary and at Adamsville Junior/Senior High and challenged them “Where is the plan” for building a new elementary school at Adamsville.
These disagreements resurfaced after a story on the April meeting of the school board and the school building program.
In response to this story, Leckner approached the Independent Appeal and asked to respond to some of the things in the story.
As he has in the past, Leckner expressed unhappiness with the pace of the process.
“They’re waiting for the school board to present a plan,” he said about the county commission.
Leckner’s solution to the problem would be to “Let the county commission put it (the school building program) to a vote and see where everybody stands. It’s unfair to the kids in this county when this issue is tied up in the the school board.”
Smith takes the opposite viewpoint on the pace and timing of decisions on the school building program.
“I’m not against building a school anywhere. I don’t want to say in five or ten years, ‘We shouldn’t have done this.’ I know it seems we are being overly cautious, but I don’t think you can be too cautious when you are spending that kind of money,” Smith concluded.
Kevin Lipford, who represents Purdy, Leapwood and one Selmer precinct in the county commission, is a strong supporter of the school building program.
“That’s one of the main reasons I ran. Our kids deserve the best in our county. I’m all for that,” he said.
Lipford believes the sooner the school board can get a plan to the county commission, the better.
“It’s kind of going slow. The quicker they (the school board) can get something to us, the quicker we can finalize this,” he said.
He said that Adamsville and Selmer are in “desperate need” of new schools.
“We need a new school in Selmer because it is falling apart and we need a new school in Adamsville because students and teachers are having to share classrooms,” Lipford said.
Lipford stressed the need for timely action on this matter.
“If we keep on waiting, the price is going to go up. You are not going to save any money by waiting a year or two,” he said.
He noted that jobs are going to Jackson and Corinth and he believes that this is because they have new schools.
Lipford believes that building new schools in our county would attract new jobs.
“The county commission is going to have to step up. We need these schools because the kids are the future of our county. We have some of the best teachers and students, and we need to give them the tools they need to succeed,” he concluded.
First-term commissioner Steve Browder, who represents Adamsville and Lawton, also supports building new schools.
“I’m ready for them (the school board) to present us something. I’m ready for them to get us correct and accurate information. I’m for having a school. Everybody is,” he said.
Browder is also for building the Adamsville school first.
“Adamsville needs the school worse, unless someone can convince otherwise. I am a graduate from McNairy Central High School. McNairy Central High School is in my heart. I am just trying to be fair to everyone,” he said.
However, Browder is concerned that the funding plan for the new schools not be an unbearable burden for the unemployed, senior citizens and other McNairy Countians who are struggling financially.
On the question of funding, Leckner once again pledged that Adamsville would hold a referendum on a one-half cent sales tax and would donate the proceeds to an Adamsville school if it passed.
“We don’t like a tax, but will support it,” he said.
Smith agrees with Leckner on his dislike of raising taxes.
“I am against raising any tax on the people of McNairy County,” he said.
He noted that over one-half of the students in the county get free or reduced-price lunches, meaning their parents are below the poverty line.
Leckner also asked to respond to Smith’s suggestion that out-of-county students be charged the full $1,600 cost of their education in McNairy County schools rather than the present $250.
Leckner said he believes that if the tuition was raised in such a fashion, that out-of-county students would leave McNairy County schools in droves, causing the county to lose Basic Education Program (BEP) funding for each.
Director of Schools Charlie Miskelly told the school board at its October meeting that the county receives $4,766.89 in BEP funding per student.
Leckner argued that if the county charged full tuition and most or all of the students outside the county left McNairy County schools, the county would lose rather than save money.
“We are not losing money on these kids. We make money on them,” he said.
Leckner also wanted to correct some misconceptions about who these students are.
He said that 40 percent of them are teacher’s children.
Also, 80 percent of the out-of-county students that attend Adamsville schools live within two miles of Adamsville.
Since Adamsville’s city limits straddles McNairy and Hardin counties, many of these students live within the city limits.
He also pointed out that Ramer, Selmer and other county schools have out-of-county students.
Adamsville has the most because it is on the county line.
The county also does not have to provide transportation to these students.
Leckner rejects the view that Adamsville schools are overcrowded because of out-of-county students.
“We’re beyond capacity. Even if we get rid of out of county kids, we are still overcrowded,” he said.
Leckner has another objection to charging out-of-county students full tuition.
“You’re turning the school system into a private school system if you charge out of county students full tuition,” he said.
Smith agrees with Leckner that some out-of-county students will leave McNairy schools if they are charged full tuition.
However, he said it was unfair to tax the people of McNairy County to pay for out-of-county students.
He also said out-of-county students are causing some of the overcrowding.
Smith expressed the concern that if a new school is built in Adamsville and Hardin County builds a new school at Crump and the out-of-county students go to that school, “the taxpayers of McNairy County will be left holding the bag.”
“We are going to have to look at more than one scenario” to address the problem of overcrowding, Smith said
One possibility he raised is going to block scheduling. By doing this, it would increase the number of classes per day to 5, rather than the current 4, according to Smith.