Plan for 'inevitable' merger, Shelby County school leaders told - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Plan for 'inevitable' merger, Shelby County school leaders told

By Jamel Major - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Leaders with Shelby County Schools were told at a meeting Thursday that their system should be prepared to merge with Memphis City Schools.

Nashville attorney Chuck Cagle, a leading expert on school mergers in Tennessee, told Shelby County Board members a lot is at stake when it comes to a possible transfer of Memphis City Schools to the Shelby County School system.

"We need to start planning for the inevitable," he said. "Failure to plan will result in failure."

Cagle said taxpayers could be greatly impacted by the transition.

"We need to be careful that we address this well with the folks who pay for education out there - the taxpayers," he said. "There is no evidence out there at all that consolidation saves money. No evidence at all."

Cagle said funding a combined school system could also be challenging.

"Memphis City Schools have grants," he said. "You folks have some grant funding.  If those two systems are combined, what happens to the Gates Foundation grant, for example?"

According to Cagle, district officials will also have to pay close attention to employee contracts..

"When we consolidate the schools, we'll have to look at the pay and benefits, and possibly the rights under their negotiated agreement and we cannot diminish their rights," he said.

A public vote on the MCS charter surrender has been put on hold since the Shelby County Election Commission declined to set a date on the advice of state officials.

Action News 5 asked Shelby County Board Chairman David Pickler if that means Shelby County Schools will have more time to pursue a special school district.

"We're still looking at legislative options (and) legal options, but we also need to understand that we simply cannot pursue those options at the exclusion of preparing appropriately in the event we do have to take on this responsibility," Pickler said.

Meanwhile, according to Cagle, if the city and county school systems merge, the process could take anywhere from 12 to 18 months.

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