U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays will appoint a special master to oversee the merger of Memphis and Shelby County Schools. “It will be someone who can really get into the weeds, so to speak, with the school system on the logistics of meeting this merger target date,” said Senior Reporter for the Memphis Daily News Bill Dries.
Mays met with attorneys working on the schools merger lawsuit this morning. Their meeting was closed to the press, but afterwards lawyers said Mays was insistent about meeting the August deadline for school consolidation. That deadline was set out in a settlement worked out in Mays’ court in 2011, but it recently came into question.
Last week the countywide school board discussed delaying the merger. Also, the board has submitted a budget that seeks $145 million in new funding for the school system, an increase that many politicians think is unrealistic. “It’s a budget that really no one on the county commission believes has any chance of passing,” Dries said. “So he [Mays] seems to be concerned that this is not moving as swiftly as it should.”
Much of the work left to do on the merger—picking a superintendent, settling on a budget—is the responsibility of the countywide school board. The number of seats on that board, how its members are chosen, and how long they serve was agreed to in Mays’ court, as a part of the 2011 settlement that set the date for the merger.
The countywide school board is not, however, a party to the lawsuit and it remains to be seen what type of authority a special master appointed by the court will have over the board.
“They [the board] are a part of the consent decree, but they’re not part of the parties that created the consent decree,” said Dries. “This is a very interesting area—where the school board meets the court order.”