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VOL. 128 | NO. 40 | Wednesday, February 27, 2013

School Board Won't File On Possibility of Special Master

By Bill Dries

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Countywide school board members had plenty to say Tuesday, Feb. 26, about a Memphis Federal Court status conference a day earlier that included the idea of Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays appointing a special master to oversee some aspects of the schools merger.

But the board voted to file no response to Mays’ call for positions on whether he should appoint the master and if so, whom he might consider for the job.

The board’s decision was the recommendation of interim Memphis City Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

“I would recommend as a lawyer to not file anything,” said Hopson, who prior to his appointment last month was general counsel to Memphis City Schools. “When you invite somebody into your kitchen … it’s just a recipe for disaster.”

Mays set a Wednesday afternoon deadline for the different parties in the two-year old schools lawsuit to file a response, if they wished, on the matter of the special master.

Shelby County Schools attorney Valerie Speakman was summoned to the status conference in behalf of the countywide school board although the school board is not a party in the case. She told the school board Mays was insistent that the school board was moving much too slowly in building the structure for the merged school system that is to begin Aug. 5, the first day of classes in the next school year.

Speakman said Mays specifically thought the timeline for picking the merger superintendent is much too late. The school board voted late last year to hire a consulting firm to conduct a national search for a superintendent and had an original goal of hiring the merger superintendent by mid-February. At its meeting a week ago, the board approved a new timeline putting the hire date in the third week of May.

Some school board members indicated they will probably propose that the board push the search timeline past the start of the first merger school year in August or otherwise put off the search. That would make official what is already the de facto working arrangement with last month’s resignation of Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash. With Cash’s departure, Shelby County Schools superintendent John Aitken has become the superintendent in charge of the merger planning.

In other action, the board delayed indefinitely a resolution by school board member Patrice Robinson to start the process to consider changing the name of the consolidated school district to something other than Shelby County Schools.

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