Tipton County leader shares concerns about school consolidation - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tipton County leader shares concerns about school consolidation

Tim Fite Tim Fite

By Justin Hanson - bio | email | Facebook

COVINGTON, TN (WMC-TV) - As discussions continue over school consolidation in Memphis and Shelby County, one Tipton County leader says it is going to take a lot of time and patience to get it done right. 

Tipton County's top educator, Dr. Tim Fite, is no stranger to school consolidation. In 2003, he led the merger of the Covington City and Tipton County school systems.

"Very laborious, tedious task," he said. "It is a heavy lifting job for a county school system."

According to Fire, school leaders had to dissect both districts and make sure they were leveled up.

"It was described to us that we had to take the better of the two systems, if it was salaries or health insurance or life insurance," he said

Fite said personnel, finances and transportation were the biggest challenges.

The Tipton County school system was obligated to teachers who already had tenure.  But Fite was also forced to cut positions because there wasn't enough money to support the combined districts.

"The City of Covington was putting in about ten percent of their budget, and of course that ceased to exist when we took it over," he said. "You didn't want to take away people's jobs, but you couldn't afford to keep everybody they had."

Fite said it took about two and a half years to complete the consolidation process in Tipton County.

He said the key to the consolidation's success was a good transition team that worked out every component.

In all, around 1,000 Covington students were absorbed into the county's system in 2003. 

"None of us is as smart as all of us and I think if you get people on the transition team, I think it'll play well for the students in both systems," he said.

But Fire warned Memphis and Shelby County school leaders that it could take them as long as five years to consolidate, if that's what area voters approve.

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