School Merger Delay Shot Down, Name Change Possible

School Merger Delay Shot Down, Name Change Possible

The massive Memphis-Shelby County school merger will go on as scheduled.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The massive Memphis-Shelby County school merger will go on as scheduled.

On Monday night, the Unified School Board rejected board member Tomeka Hart's proposal to delay the merger by a year.

After the vote, Hart said the fight isn't over.

"Nothing ever surprises me, but you never know if you don't put it out there," Hart said after the vote.

Hart says her motivation remains new legislation that was filed in Nashville last Thursday. The bills could pave the way for six Shelby County municipalities to start their own school districts.

"I just think to the Shelby County taxpayer, I just think it is sending a mixed message, let's spend all this money, time and resources now to build a system to then have to pull it apart," she said.

Hart says she doesn't understand why the 23-member school board continues to work towards and pay for a merged district that may soon look very different.

"I will be watching the bills and if they pass I'll say ok, are we going to act like these bills didn't just pass?" she said.

"We're here, we can't un-ring that bell, I think it is time to move forward with merging the districts," said board member Kevin Woods. "Who is to say just because the state votes to have their own municipal school system that it won't take 3 to 5 years to decide to pull that trigger? So I think right now we need to be focused on the work at hand."

Even before the vote, there were questions about what, if anything, the board could do. The merger is the result of a federal lawsuit and settlement.

"I suppose it is possible that they could authorize their lawyers to go in and persuade the other parties or persuade the judge, I just don't think it is very likely," said University of Memphis law professor Steve Mulroy.

"We'll see - there is always time. I don't plan to bring it again unless, if those bills pass I think it behooves us to sit down and talk," said Hart. "Are we really going to spend from now until June 30th putting a system together to spend July 1 to June 30th of next year pulling it apart?"

The board did decide to debate changing the name of the merged district. Several board members said "Memphis" should be part of any new name.

The board will consider that when it meets next week.
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