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VOL. 126 | NO. 176 | Friday, September 9, 2011

Pickler Picks Five for Consolidation Commission

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Schools Board chairman David Pickler has selected the mayor of Bartlett, a county schools parent, the longtime head of the Shelby County Education Association, a reitred county schools administrator and a former Shelby County commissioner to serve on the schools consolidation planning commission.

Pickler went with the five selections recommended by the other six board members Thursday, Sept. 8, at a special board meeting.

Under state law, Pickler could choose anyone he wanted without board consent. But he took advice from board members in an elaborate ranking system that one board member complained was "unfair."

In the end, the picks were Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald; former Shelby County commissioner Tommy Hart; retired SCS operations chief Richard Holden; Shelby County Education Associaton head Katie Stanton; and Ricky Jeans, a county schools parent and one of the first students to integrate county schools in the 1960s.

The five join a planning commission that now lacks only the appointment of its final member by Lt. Gov. and Tennessee Senate speaker Ron Ramsey.

The planning commission will advise the new countywide school board on the transition process and report to state education officials on the transition. The new 23-member school board takes office Oct. 1.

SCS board member Dianne George said the ranking of a group of 18 names submitted by board members was "unfair" and that the process wasn't open.

Pickler said the process was "advisory" and argued he didn't have to seek input from the board at all.

George said the process was hard to understand and that the choices were weighted with retired county schools administrators when it needed more citizens with business experience.

"I don't want to betray the public," she said.

Board member Mike Wissman argued the county schools selections should have a "strong suburban" flavor because county residents outside Memphis had been 'left out" in the city referendum in March that made schools consolidation inevitable.

Board member David Reaves was concerned about a lot of political figures on the list of 18.

"We don't want a politically driven group," he said, arguing for a planning commission that could analyze statistics and look at other school systems and education models that are successful elsewhere.

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