Memphis, TN – All sides in the multi-party lawsuit over the consolidation of Memphis and Shelby County schools have reached a tentative agreement.
The controversy over merging schools, followed by the lawsuit, divided city and county. So, when seven men representing five local parties in the lawsuit climbed the white stone steps of the county government building to stand behind a podium and announce their accord, it was a rare site--like looking at a peacock, or another exotic bird.
Memphis city school board president Martavius Jones told journalists they'd be seeing a lot more of this united front.
"Now we only have one side," Jones said, "this one side is for the best interest of children in all of Shelby County."
Here's how it works--starting October 1st there will be a single merged Shelby County school board. The board will be made up of the nine existing city school board members, the seven existing county school board members and seven new members who will be appointed by the county commission.
The new, merged, 23-member Shelby County school board will control school consolidation and the day-to-day operations of both the Memphis City Schools and the Shelby County Schools.
Jones said retaining his board and the county board and not having school-board-novices overseeing the merger is a wildly good thing.
"Believe it or not, there's a steep learning curve for someone who decides to seek office to be a school board member," Jones said.
When the merger of the two school systems actually takes place in 2013, the board will drop down to seven members, elected county-wide.
Appointments to a transition committee required by the Norris-Todd law are also okayed to go ahead. The transition committee will help the merged school board shape, plan, and execute school consolidation.
The agreement was reached after days of super-secret meetings between the parties and the judge over the lawsuit.
Superintendent of the Shelby County Schools John Aitken says he is tired, but also happy to have an agreement.
Aitken said, "We've got to move forward and start making plans because 2013 is going to be here before we know it."
All the governing bodies still have to approve the agreement. The sides said there would be no appeals.