Commission Scraps Process for Filling School Board Vacancy

By Bill Dries

Attorneys for the Shelby County Commission are seeking a status conference with U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays on their plan to convert what is now a 23-member countywide school board to 13 members effective Sept. 1.

A ruling by Mays is pending in the latest phase of the two-year old federal court case.

The attorneys requested the status conference as the commission considers a procedure for filling a vacancy on the existing school board.

District 6 school board member Reginald Porter resigned the position as he become chief of staff of Shelby County Schools effective Aug. 1.

But under the districting plan for a 13-member board instead of the seven-member board that was part of the 2011 settlement plan by all sides, the vacancy to be filled would be in the new District 9 since those new lines would take effect Sept. 1.

That all depends on a ruling by then from Mays. He has agreed that he approved a provision that would allow the commission to take the school board to 13 members instead of seven on Sept. 1.

He also said he would have final approval of the details of such a plan including the new district lines.

Sept. 1 is when the nine members of the old Memphis City Schools board and the seven members of the old Shelby County Schools board go off the countywide school board.

The legal point Mays is expected to decide is whether the County Commission can fill the six new positions immediately or whether there could be a special election or whether to wait on the regularly scheduled county general elections in August 2014.

The Porter vacancy is a complication that prompted the commission Monday, Aug. 5, to rescind its earlier plan for filling the vacancy at its Aug. 19 session.

Several commissioners argued the commission was complicating the vacancy by the possibility of only considering those who live in the smaller District 9 to come instead of taking candidates from the existing District 6.

Still other commissioners countered that the commission should set parameters for filling the vacancy and set them so they only have to do it once.

If the commission were to consider candidates from the existing District 6 and someone who didn’t live in the new District 9 was the appointee, that could lead to the commission having to make another appointment of someone from within District 9 once Mays rules on the new district lines.

In other action Monday, the commission delayed a vote for a month on a resort addition to the Spring Creek Ranch development at Collierville-Arlington Road and Raleigh LaGrange Road.

And developers of the First Citizens National Bank mixed-use commercial space at Austin Peay Highway and Millington-Arlington Road withdrew their proposal from consideration.