Shelby Suburbs Battle For Superior School District

(Bartlett, TN) The battle is on between Shelby County’s suburbs.

The suburbs have been working together for the right to start their own districts, but now that they have them, cooperation is turning into competition.

Mayor Keith McDonald says it can be a good thing because it can make the districts better.

The suburbs are competing for students and families so their home values and tax base improve.

To get those students and families, a suburb must have the best schools and quality of life.

McDonald has a sign on his desk that says meet the needs and exceed the expectations, and that’s exactly what he plans to do with Bartlett schools.

“Instead of just saying ‘Well everyone has to stay together,’ let’s have these smaller units compete and that just raises everybody because your competing to be the best and not just the least worst,” said McDonald.

When Bartlett schools open next year, they will probably be the largest municipal district in the state with about 9,000 students.

“I want Germantown to be the best it can be, but I want us to be better,” said McDonald.

But other suburbs like Collierville, Germantown, Arlington, Lakeland and Millington all want some of those students, too.

“That’s the kind of competition you want. That’s healthy. Competition, that’s what I wish we had. That’s what I wish we could get folks in Memphis could have the same idea. Let’s compete to see who can have the best,” said McDonald.

McDonald says each suburb can offer something a little different.

He says Bartlett offers more affordable houses for younger families, but Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman says his city has newer schools and amenities.

“We’re fortunate to have four new, modern, up-to-date schools out here. We’re also considered farther out and have a more rural feel,” said Wissman.

One of the first big competitions between the suburbs was getting former superintendent John Atkin to work for them.

Right now, four suburbs – Germantown, Collierville, Lakeland and Arlington – are all working with Atkin.