MEMPHIS, TN - The Shelby County School Board wants Memphis City Schools to start handing over information, it's one of the first steps in combining the two school systems.
On Monday, August 8, 2011, a Federal Judge ordered the districts to consolidate for the 2013 school year. The County School Board met in a special public session on Wednesday, August 10, after two days of private meetings with lawyers and the Judge.
County School leaders say they're anxious to get this massive merger underway. Out of more than 15,000 school districts in the U.S., Shelby County's 47,000 students make it the 106th largest in the nation. Memphis City Schools, with more than 100,000 students is the 23rd largest in the nation. When the two combine, the new Shelby County Schools will become the 14th largest in the country. The county's superintendent, John Aitken, says there's a lot to do in only two years.
That's why they're already working on resolutions.
In the special meeting, the Shelby County School Board unanimously adopted a 20 point resolution that, among its requests, asks for access to Memphis City School's student and teacher records, curriculum and financial documents.
Aitken says taking over MCS will triple his students and employees and that the access to records is the first step in a massive transition process.
"It's a huge task. We have things we have to do but we have to start getting information to get prepared for that work and we're going to need some help. We're going to bring in people and the transition committee, once its appointed, will need some help too."
But before they get to the transition committee, they need to figure out what will happen to the county's board members. The current board was ruled unconstitutional by the judge because it doesn't represent the city of Memphis.
All parties are set to meet Friday, August 12, to give ideas on how to handle changing the Shelby County Board.
Aitken says there are still a lot of decisions that need to be made.
"I'm interested in seeing where we go with (the City's) school board remaining in existence and for how long our school board will, and what will be the appointment and election process and all the things that will come into play," he said.
Until the school board questions are resolved, MCS board members aren't sure how soon they want to make the requested information available.
MCS board member Freda Williams says, "I have questions about the judge's statement that this is an unconstitutional board. I don't doubt the information that was requested will need to be handed over, but I'm wondering if it's appropriate to hand it over at this time."
The Shelby County Board of Commissioners will meet Thursday, August 11, to discuss redistricting the school board to include members from the city of Memphis.
Hamilton County was the most recent district in Tennessee to merge school systems, that was only 40,000 students and it took three years.