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VOL. 126 | NO. 192 | Monday, October 3, 2011

Schools Get Fresh Start With New Board

By Bill Dries

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The separate Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools boards are no more when the end of September rolls over into October.

And the 23 members of the countywide Shelby County Schools board take the oath of office Monday, Oct. 3 at the MCS auditorium.

The two separate school systems, each with its own superintendent, continue to operate until the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year when they too will merge.

But starting Monday, both superintendents, John Aitken and Kriner Cash, report to a single school board.

The school board is a combination of the nine members of the MCS board, the seven members of the SCS board and seven other citizens appointed by the Shelby County Commission.

The board members are: Chris Caldwell, financial consultant and Morgan Keegan vice president; Snowden Carruthers, retired county school principal; Ernest Chism, retired county school principal and current member of Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen; Joseph Clayton, retired city, county and private school principal; Stephanie Gatewood, independent management consultant; Diane George, Realtor; Tomeka Hart, Memphis Urban League president and CEO; Martavius Jones, president Jones Wealth Management Group; Teresa Jones, attorney; Vanecia Kimbrow, attorney and founder of Community Equity & Title Inc.; Sara Lewis, former MCS principal and assistant MCS superintendent; Betty Mallott, former MCS teacher, Holiday Inns Worldwide executive and corporate consultant; Raphael McInnis, Medtronic regulatory affairs specialist; Billy Orgel, founder Tower Ventures; David Pickler, attorney and certified financial planner and consultant; Reginald Porter, FedEx Services project adviser; David Reaves, FedEx senior process analyst; Patrice Robinson, Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division supervisor of employee development; Jeff Warren, physician at Primary Care Specialists Inc.; Kenneth Whalum Jr., pastor of New Olivet Baptist Church; Freda Williams, educator and Walden University professor; Mike Wissman, Arlington mayor; and Kevin Woods, New Horizons career development director.

The 23-member school board will be pared down to a seven-member school board starting Sept. 1, 2013 when the two school systems become one.

Meanwhile, former MCS board member Barbara Prescott is chairwoman of the 21-member consolidation planning commission, which will work with the new board to come up with the structure of the new school system and the path to the 2013 merger.

Prescott was elected without opposition at the first meeting of the group last week.

The group’s first meeting revealed plenty of lingering questions about exactly how the planning commission will interact with the countywide school board.

Some wondered when exactly they had to have a plan for schools consolidation to send to the state that the new countywide school board will eventually have to approve as well. Some of that will depend on how long it will take state education department officials to review the plan.

“We’ve really got to back it up,” said Commissioner Chris Richards, referring to the creation of a commission timeline that works backwards from the August 2013 start of the merged school system in its first school year.

“There is no clarity,” Commissioner Staley Cates said as the group grappled with what to do next and how to go about it. “I just want to know what the rules are. We’re all about to spend a lot of time on this.”

Richards said final approval by the new school board of a plan shouldn’t hinder or cause the commission to hesitate.

“We can’t let the fact that it’s problematic … dissuade us from doing the right thing,” she said.

Pickler, Jones and Prescott each said it would be difficult for the new board to totally reject a plan from the commission. Pickler and Jones, as outgoing leaders of the two school boards, also serve on the new school board and planning commission.

Jones said he and Pickler will be “the biggest cheerleaders” for the commission’s plan.

“Don’t try to be political,” Pickler told Cates. “Try to come up with what’s great. … Feel free to dream. … Don’t hold back.”

Prescott called Cates’ point “a dose of realism” but countered that the commission’s business and education backgrounds will carry political influence.

“If we do this right so that we involve the public and they are excited about it then – having been a politician – it would be hard to vote against,” she said. “I think we do need to use that kind of psychological construct of acting as if this is going to be approved.”

PROPERTY SALES 39 202 12,960
MORTGAGES 25 110 8,113
BUILDING PERMITS 114 645 30,579
BANKRUPTCIES 37 122 6,186