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Millington voters to decide two contested school board races

By , Special to the Daily Memphian Updated: October 20, 2022 4:00 AM CT | Published: October 20, 2022 4:00 AM CT

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Millington voters soon will go to the polls to decide who will work on the challenges of a relatively young school district.

Six candidates are running for the city’s school board, but only two of the four non-partisan races are contested on Nov 8. Early voting began Wednesday, Oct. 19, and runs through Nov. 3.

Mandy Compton challenges incumbent Larry Jackson in Position 6, while Gregory Ritter, appointed to the Position 3 office two years ago, faces Brian McGovern.

The winners will face the question of where to put future students in a growing city.


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One concern is what will happen to Lucy Elementary, retained by the Memphis-Shelby County Schools system after creation of the Millington Municipal Schools district. The city school district is in need of space. Where will Millington put its students if MSCS retains Lucy?

Though Millington officials are relatively sure the outcome will be in the city’s favor when the legal quarrel is resolved, there’s still the need to navigate the placement of student populations.

<strong>Mandy Compton</strong>

Mandy Compton

The city school district currently serves about 2,700 students. New housing starts promise a growth in population. About 10,170 people called Millington home in 2010, compared to about 10,660 currently. But the potential for growth means addressing concerns for schools.

<strong>Larry Jackson</strong>

Larry Jackson

“Millington is growing by leaps and bounds,” said Mandy Compton, who is running for Position 6 on the school board. “We’re getting a lot more residents. With families come children. We’ll need to handle how to accommodate them.”

Her opponent is Larry Jackson, the incumbent. He is optimistic about Millington’s ability to handle growth.

“We’re on the upswing,” he said. “And with Memphis-Shelby County Schools getting a court ruling, and we get Lucy … that will help some of our expansion plans.”


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Up to 500 students attend Lucy. Meanwhile, Millington runs three schools: Millington Primary, Millington Intermediate and Millington Central High School. The district was formed about eight years ago.

A new state law requires Memphis-Shelby County Schools to give up ownership of Lucy and three Germantown schools, however, officials are still in negotiations regarding the financial aspects of the transactions.

Jackson 74, a semi-retired banker, has served two terms on the school board. He believes having local residents controlling their own school system is working well, and that the district has hired good educators.

But they need better pay, he said, and Millington needs to upgrade its facilities. He wants to find funding to support those efforts.

As for being qualified, Jackson sees his experience as a benefit, but he also considers a personal attribute to be important.

“I pride myself in being able to listen to people and weigh options, he said.


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Compton, 62, is a retired teacher who believes it is important to have an educator helping make decisions for the district.

“I can bring to the school board a different perspective,” Compton said. “I know the teacher perspective and the administrative perspective and I’ve lived in Millington 25 years.”

She wants the district to concentrate on the whole student, including mental health aspects, to give Millington children the best possible experience.

To those ends, she supports enhancing the variety of academic programs and course offerings at the high school. She also wants to help the school board shape a plan to improve parental engagement.

<strong>Gregory Ritter</strong>

Gregory Ritter

The other contested race is for Position 3 on the board.

Ritter, 52, a Certified Public Accountant, was appointed to that position about two years ago. He also served between 2013 and 2016.

<strong>Brian McGovern</strong>

Brian McGovern

He said the district is still recovering from being impacted disproportionately by COVID-19.

Millington is home to blue-collar workers, he said, and the children did not have parents at home to help school them through distance learning.

“Right now, we’re focused on growth,” Ritter said, referring to student year-to-year improvement. He then shifted to district-wide proficiency: “At some point, achievement has to catch up to the growth.”


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Millington students attained a Level 5 distinction this year (the highest possible rating in Tennessee) based on assessment scores.

However, other measurements put the district behind suburban schools like Germantown and Collierville. Officials argue that Millington should not be compared to those cities because Millington’s demographics more closely resemble unincorporated Shelby County.

“A lot of positive things are going on in Millington,” Ritter said, “but we can’t do it alone. We welcome people’s input.”

Brian McGovern, 39, an Internet technology professional, is challenging Ritter for the Position 3 slot. His wife is a teacher in the school district, and McGovern approves of local control of the city’s local system.

He sees the need for improvement, however.

“I am disappointed so far, specifically on our academic record,” McGovern said. “It’s the worst in the county outside of Shelby County Schools. If our academic record doesn’t improve, we’ll always be the stepchild.”


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In his previous position, McGovern was director of planning and forecasting, a job requiring data evaluation and consensus building.

“What I learned from that, I’d love to bring to the board,” he said. “We need a shared vision, and we need to hold people accountable to a strategy.”

The two candidates running unopposed are:

  • Debby Clifton, 44, an administrative specialist at the Denver campus of Cornerstone Prep in Frayser, will be in Position 2. “My main focus going into this position will be working on ways to retain not only students but teachers and staff as well,” she said. “I believe the children of Millington are unique and deserve every opportunity that the children in the surrounding communities deserve.”
  • Cody Childress, 67, Memphis city code enforcement inspector, will be in Position 4. As a public servant who lives in the Lucy community, “I understand educational systems … and I’ve got a feel for their CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs,” he said. “I’m very passionate about hands-on learning. Not everyone is going to go to college.”

Topics

Millington Municipal Schools School board Nov 2022 elections
Toni Lepeska

Toni Lepeska

Toni Lepeska is a freelance reporter for The Daily Memphian. The 32-year veteran of newspaper journalism covers a diversity of topics, always seeking to reveal the human story behind the news. Toni, who grew up in Cayce, Mississippi, is a graduate of the University of Mississippi. To learn more, visit tonilepeska.com


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