Mays Appoints Masson Schools Special Master

By Bill Dries

Memphis Federal Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays appointed former city of Memphis Chief Administrative Officer Rick Masson Tuesday, March 5, as special master overseeing the federal court consent decree on the merger of Shelby County’s two public school systems.

“The court’s purpose in entering this order is not to assume the management of the two school systems or to make decisions about the transition,” Mays wrote in the order issued late Tuesday afternoon.

“The court’s purpose is to fulfill its obligation to enforce the consent decree. At a minimum, that means that, in adequate time before the beginning of the school year in 2013, students will know the school they will attend and how they will get there, have a safe and clean place to learn, have teachers prepared to teach them, and have an established curriculum.”

Mays singled out the task of appointing a merger superintendent writing, “It also means that the Shelby County Board of Education must, as soon as practicable, appoint a single superintendent with strong educational credentials, even if on an interim basis.”

Masson is to be paid $250 an hour, payable monthly with the two school systems splitting the expense evenly.

Mays also outlined the position’s specific duties establishing the position as an advisory position in which Masson will consult with the school board as well as the state and keep the court updated on the school board’s progress.

“If circumstances require, the court is prepared to expand the duties of the special master and to make such decisions as may be necessary to enforce the consent decree,” Mays wrote, adding he would consult with all sides in the case if he thought such a change was necessary.

The duties of the master specifically include monitoring the progress of the countywide school board on the merger and assisting the board and staff of both school systems in setting deadlines.

Mays also ordered that Masson ensure that issues raised in the set of 172 recommendations made and submitted to the board last August by the consolidation planning commission are “considered and resolved in a timely and appropriate way.”

Masson will also work with the state department of education on provisions involving teacher pay and benefits that by state law cannot be impaired, interrupted or diminished.

The duties also include working with the board on a budget for the first fiscal year of the merger which begins July 1 and to gather information to ensure the implementation of the 2011 consent decree agreed to by all sides in the case and ratified by Mays.

Masson is to “encourage voluntary compliance with the consent decree and … recommend specific action by the court if decisions are not made or not timely made.”