Despite a predictable rear-guard action from District 4 (suburban) members Wyatt Bunker, Chris Thomas, and Terry Roland, a Memorandum of Understanding on the merger of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools was handily ratified by the Shelby County Commission at a special meeting Monday — leaving only the Memphis City Council to complete the cycle.
After a mediation process presided over by U.S. District Judge Hardy Mays, the MOU was agreed upon last week by legal representatives of all the contending parties with an interest in the merger of Memphis City Schools with Shelby County Schools. Judge Mays had earlier mandated MCS-SCS merger, more or less along the lines provided for in the Norris-Todd bill, passed earlier this year by the legislature.
The Commission also approved a framework of seven single-member districts for an all-county school board and arranged an interview date, September 7, for applicants interested in filling those seven slots on an interim basis, beginning October 1. Consistent with the Mays ruling, elections for the positions will be held in August 2012, pending completion of merger on September 1, 2013.
All votes were unanimous except for absentees and the opposition of Commissioners Bunker, Thomas and Roland. The three suburban commissioners repeated their previous objections to the entire merger process — essentially, as Bunker put it, that a functioning system, Shelby County Schools, was being shut down prematurely and forced into unwanted union with a problematic city system, that, in Roland’s words, the people of District 4 “don’t want this,” and that, as Thomas predicted, adverse educational change would be the consequence.
After hearing further protests from the dissenting commissioners, the Commission majority agreed to be flexible on ground rules for the candidate interviews — for example, removing from a list of FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) for the candidates inquiries about party affiliation or prior attitudes toward school merger. As various members of the Commission majority pointed out, however, questions of that sort are likely to be asked anyhow, though, just not listed.
A further stipulation was that those candidates who had submitted themselves to examination in March, when the Commission was considering making appointment to a provisional 25-member board, would not need to repeat the entire interview process, though they would be subject to questions by commissioners.
Commissioner Thomas objects to merger process
Commissioner Brooks rebuts objections and defends the MOU
Commissioner Mike Carpenter also challenges the objectors