Mays Approves 9-Member County Schools Board

By Bill Dries

With two rulings in as many days, U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays this week cleared his schedule of any pending matters in the reformation of public education in Shelby County.

Mays approved the restructuring of the Shelby County Schools board Tuesday, March 11, to a nine-member body with districts that include the city of Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County but not the six suburban towns and cities.

The restructuring by the Shelby County Commission takes effect Sept. 1 when the winners of the school board races on the August ballot take office.

The board is currently seven members representing districts that cover the entire county including the six suburban towns and cities that are forming their own separate school districts and where voters have already elected six separate school boards to govern those school systems.

Mays ruling came the day after he approved the terms of the creation of the suburban school districts putting to rest all of the other pending legal issues in the three-year old federal lawsuit over the schools merger and the demerger.

Mays retains control of the consent decree that resulted from the first settlement in the lawsuit that specifically involved the schools merger and set the stage for the demerger.

“The nine school board districts are of substantially equal population, compact, contiguous, respectful of political divisions, and representative of the community,” Mays wrote in his Tuesday court order on the board restructuring. “The number of board members, the method of selection and the proposed school board districts are consistent with the consent decree on Sept. 28, 2011.”

The order scrambles the filing process for school board candidates that has been underway since January. Several candidates pulled petitions for the previous restructuring plan which would have increased the current board to a 13-member body with districts that included the suburban towns and cities.

That plan was also approved by the county commission. But the commission moved to change the structure yet again citing the move to suburban school districts.

With a filing deadline for school board candidates of April 3 still in place, the August election ballot will now have seven school board races. The school board incumbents holding the District 2 and District 4 seats – Teresa Jones and board chairman Kevin Woods – will continue to serve the four-year terms they were elected to in 2012.

The District 1, 6, 8 and 9 board members elected in August will be elected to full four-year terms. The winners in Districts 3, 5 and 7 will serve one-time only terms of two-years in order to stagger the terms of office on the school board which is required under state law.