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VOL. 128 | NO. 37 | Friday, February 22, 2013

Mays Sets Monday Conference in Schools Merger Case

By Bill Dries

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Memphis federal court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays has called a Monday, Feb. 25, status conference in the Shelby County schools merger case.

All sides in the two-year-old lawsuit are scheduled to appear before Mays at 9:30 a.m.

The conference comes after all sides trying to work out a settlement of the municipal schools district part of the lawsuit ended their private discussions last month.

Mays was not involved in the mediation effort as he had been in the first part of the case, which dealt with the terms of the merger of Shelby County’s two public school systems.

Mays tried unsuccessfully to mediate a settlement among all sides just before he ruled in November that one of three state laws governing how municipal school districts are formed violated the Tennessee Constitution.

At issue now are two other state laws on municipal school districts.

Shelby County Commission chairman Mike Ritz indicated last month that he would instruct the commission’s legal counsel in the case to ask Mays to rule on the remaining state laws.

Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald said suburban leaders weren’t sure exactly how they would word their notice to the court that the mediation efforts had failed. They could simply tell Mays the talks are over without asking him to rule.

No notice of the end of talks from any of the sides has showed up in the electronic case file for the matter.

Ritz said this week that Mays has heard all of the evidence and arguments on the two municipal school districts laws that are at stake.

The status conference takes place against the backdrop of a weekend budget retreat by Shelby County Commissioners that is expected to focus on what level of extra funding the commission should give the merged school district in its first fiscal year of operation.

Meanwhile, Tennessee legislators are considering several bills that would lift the statewide ban on the creation of special school districts and allow municipal school districts like those favored by Shelby County suburban leaders to be created anywhere in the state.

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