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Community frustrated as MSCS announces pause to superintendent search

As MSCS prepares for its upcoming retreat on Friday, parents are hopeful they'll be kept up to date on the search for superintendent.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tuesday night’s special-called Memphis Shelby County School Board meeting paved the way for frustrated activists. LJ Abraham said parents didn't have enough time to make plans to attend this special called meeting.

"They've been asking y’all, they've been talking to y’all, they've been communicating, they make it when they can,” Abraham said to the school board. “But y’all aren’t making it easy for them and y’all are elected. The position that you have, you got here because people chose you but it can be taken away."

The meeting quickly took a turn when a local activist, Rachel Briggs, used interim superintendent Toni Williams’ name instead of just saying interim during her 3-minute speaking session.

"What does supporting Toni – I mean interim – look like as it relates to the policy and where we are in the process,” Briggs asked. “What does it look like as it relates to the data that was –“

MSCS Board Chair Althea Greene used her gavel to stop Briggs from speaking, then said, “Thank you, Miss. Briggs you may continue to, attend meetings but I’m gonna have to ask you to stop.”

“It's clear that you don't want me to get this message out but imma get somebody to read it,” Briggs said.

A few minutes later, as another speaker took to the mic, the fill-in parliamentarian read the policy they said was broken.

"Speakers are asked to refrain from using names of personnel or names of persons connected with the school system, particularly when lodging a complaint,” the guest parliamentarian said.

"That says asked to refrain but doesn't say required to refrain, so it seems like that's a choice, like an option that people have,” activist Amber Sherman said. “So I just wanna make sure - I’m just clarifying.”

"Ma’am, I am working through the chair and I don't believe that she recognized your question,” the parliamentarian said, disregarding the statement Sherman made.

While those involved in the disagreement were not banned from meetings, Miss. Briggs was not allowed to finish speaking so other activists were able to finish her speech for her.

MSCS later sent a statement at the end of the meeting, saying they will pause their superintendent search, and announce Friday their next steps:

We've heard the community concerns regarding the MSCS Super Search: better define the candidate selection process, answer unanswered policy questions and get this right for the benefit of all, especially our children. Rather than stopping the search, we will temporarily pause to allow the time and attention necessary to complete the required tasks. This must be thoughtfully done to instill community confidence in the person chosen to lead Memphis and Shelby County Schools.

Please expect further details regarding the next steps in the process during our superintendent search retreat on Friday. 

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