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VOL. 127 | NO. 178 | Wednesday, September 12, 2012

School Board to Welcome Two New Members

By Bill Dries

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The two newest countywide school board members are question marks on the most critical and time-sensitive questions the entire school board faces with less than a year to the merger of Shelby County’s two public school systems.

Mary Anne Gibson and Oscar Love were appointed Monday, Sept. 10, by the Shelby County Commission.

“I’m not prepared to make a statement on that,” said Love a retired Memphis City Schools principal. “I’ll have to think more about it and have a better understanding. I want to always make a decision in the best interest of children. I don’t think I’m at that point in terms of being familiar with the issues.”

Gibson, a Realtor involved in school organizations, knows several members of the schools consolidation planning commission whose 170-plus recommendations on a merger structure and plan are awaiting school board votes.

“They have put together a very thoughtful and reasoned plan,” she said. “Anytime you talk about outsourcing or potentially laying off people, especially in this economy – it should give us pause. The same with closing schools. Those schools are important to their community.”

The outsourcing recommendations for transportation and custodial services as well as a recommendation to close up to 20 Memphis schools in a year’s time are the most controversial of the recommendations by the planning commission.

The other pressing decision for the school board is the selection of a merger superintendent. Gibson said she has no position as she goes onto a board still trying to come up with a process for the selection.

“I want to always make a decision in the best interest of children.”

–Oscar Love
Member, countywide school board

“I can say that I have the utmost respect for John Aitken,” she said of the county schools superintendent. “I believe he is a true leader. I believe he inspires teachers and he is doing a superb job in a very turbulent time.”

Love said he was urged by others to seek the appointment after a career in which he has mentored other principals and served as principal of Trezevant Career and Technology Center, East High School and Raleigh Egypt High School.

“It wasn’t hard,” he said of seeking the appointment. “I hadn’t had a lot of interest in the past.”

Gibson made no distinction between city and county schools in talking about her motivation.

“I want my children to come back home,” she said of her adult children who live elsewhere. “I want them to come home to Memphis, to raise their children, to live here, to work here and I want them to be in the same school system they grew up in. We chose to educate our children in public schools.”

Love and Gibson fill vacancies created when David Reaves and David Pickler, who held the seats, were elected to the seven-district countywide school board in the Aug. 2 elections.

Love was appointed to the District 3 position of the old Shelby County Schools board held by Reaves, which is a predominantly Bartlett district.

Gibson was appointed to the District 5 seat of the old Shelby County Schools board held by Pickler, which is a predominantly Germantown district.

Love and Gibson will serve for the year remaining on the terms of office of Reaves and Pickler on the old school board.

Members of the former county and Memphis City Schools boards are part of the transitional 23-member countywide school board for another year along with the members of the seven-district countywide board.

Once Shelby County’s two school systems are merged in August, the old school board positions will be eliminated leaving only the seven-district countywide board. It is that seven-district board that Pickler and Reaves won election to in last month’s elections.

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