Don't Cut $93 Million from Memphis Schools, Herenton Says

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Mayor Willie Herenton, who will make his case for running the Memphis City Schools next Tuesday, asked the Memphis City Council this week to drop the idea of withholding $93 million in city funding from the schools.

Herenton made the request in a brief letter to council members Wednesday. "To abruptly withhold $93 million from the Memphis City Schools would not be in the best interest of our children. In fact, this course of action could seriously damage a school system that needs new directions. If we could all stop for a moment and contain our emotions and let reason prevail, then progress can be made on different fronts."

Council members are considering deleting school funding from the city budget -- an idea Herenton himself has proposed previously. That would leave funding for city schools in the hands of the Shelby County Commission and allow the city council to possibly reduce property taxes instead of raising them by 58 cents, as Herenton proposed last month. It is unlikely that the commission would restore all $93 million if the City Council follows through. The total city schools budget is slightly more than $900 million.

Herenton will speak to the council about schools next Tuesday. He has declined interview requests and suggestions from businessmen that he take a more active role in promoting his own candidacy.

Herenton wants the school board to ask him to take the superintendent's job. That appears unlikely. School system sources say Herenton's offer is not catching fire with board members, who are more likely to support someone such as Alfred Hall, the syste's chief academic officer and a regular at board meetings. Board member Martavius Jones has recommended Hall.

A search firm, Ray and Associates, will present the school board with a list of qualified candidates next week. Ray and Associates was also involved with Knox County in the search for a new superintendent. In March that job went to James McIntyre, 40, formerly chief operating officer for the Boston Public Schools.

The most important quality of a superintendent in Knox County, the consultants determined, was someone who "inspires trust, self-confidence, and models high standards."

The Metro Nashville school system is also looking for a new superintendent.

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