Judge declares Memphis City Schools will cease to exist in 2013 - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Judge declares Memphis City Schools will cease to exist in 2013

(WMC-TV/AP) - A federal judge has ruled that the merger between Memphis City Schools and the Shelby County school district is legal, paving the way for the creation of a school system with 150,000 students in 2013.

District Judge Samuel Mays' Monday ruling says that the Memphis city school board acted legally when it surrendered its right to exist last December to force a merger with the more successful Shelby County school system.

The judge ordered the county school board, which had sued to block the merger, to "oversee the transition process to a combined school system and plan for educating Memphis schoolchildren after Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools have been combined."

Voters approved the merger in March, but the federal lawsuit had been holding up the consolidation process.

Just hours after the ruling was issued, Memphis City Schools Board members and Superintendent Kriner Cash worked to figure out what it means.

"There is nothing here that says anybody other than teachers, and even they under certain circumstances, are going to maintain their employment," school board member Kenneth Whalum said.

Many questions remain, including the Norris-Todd provision to create special school districts. Monday, MCS Attorney Dorsey Hopson said Mays hasn't ruled on the issue yet because the county hasn't tried to create a special school district.

Meanwhile, MCS Superintendent Kriner Cash said he doesn't yet know if he will seek to be the leader of the merged district.

Cash said that depends on the who is on the new school board.

The judge says the Shelby County Commission can't create a 25 member school board, but the SCS school board's current electoral districts are unconstitutional.

Mays said the parties need to submit their solutions to make the districts constitutional by Friday.

Action News 5 requested an interview for comment Monday from Shelby County Schools superintendent John Aitken. After that request the school system e-mailed us a statement that read in part, "Once again the ruling by Judge Mays confirms the constitutionality of the Norris-Todd Bill."

Click here to read and download the ruling.

Check back for updates on this story.

From the ruling:

Based on the parties' requested relief and the Court's findings and conclusions, the Court makes the following determinations and ORDERS the following declaratory relief. The Court DECLARES:

(1) The 1961 Private Act is constitutional and has not been impliedly amended or superseded. The Memphis City Board of Education has validly surrendered the charter of the Memphis City Schools in compliance with the Act.

(2) Public Chapter 1 is constitutional and applies to the transfer of administration of the Memphis City Schools to the Shelby County Board of Education.

(3) The Memphis City Schools has been abolished for all purposes except the winding down of its operations and the transfer of administration to the Shelby County Board of Education under the terms of Public Chapter 1 and Tennessee education law.

(4) The surrender of the Memphis City Schools' charter does not affect the validity of the Memphis City Board of Education's actions to date.

(5) The Shelby County Board of Education is responsible for educating Memphis schoolchildren under Tennessee law. It is required to oversee the transition process to a combined school system and plan for educating Memphis schoolchildren after Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools have been combined. The Board must adopt and implement a comprehensive transition plan. It must make present decisions necessary to provide for the future education of Memphis school children, including curricular decisions, the hiring of teachers and staff, compliance with state and federal requirements, and long-term planning.

(6) Until the beginning of the school year in 2013, when the transfer of administration will be completed, the Memphis City Board of Education has authority to operate the Memphis City Schools, to wind up its business and affairs, and to assist the Shelby County Board of Education in exercising its responsibility for educating Memphis schoolchildren, including providing support and information during the transition process and transferring Memphis City Schools' assets to the Shelby County Board of Education.

(7) At the beginning of the school year in 2013, the Memphis City Board of Education will cease to exist.

(8) The Shelby County Board of Education must promptly give the Tennessee Commissioner of Education all information necessary to determine that the rights and privileges of teachers who work at Memphis City Schools will not be impaired, interrupted, or diminished.

(9) The Memphis City Board of Education must promptly give the Tennessee Commissioner of Education all necessary information to determine that the rights and privileges of teachers who work at Memphis City Schools will not be impaired, interrupted, or diminished.

(10) The Shelby County Board of Education is required to prepare and submit to the Tennessee Commissioner of Education a plan, in a form satisfactory to the Commissioner, to ensure that teachers' rights are protected.

(11) Once he receives all necessary information, the Tennessee Commissioner of Education is required to determine whether the rights and privileges of teachers who work at Memphis City Schools will be impaired, interrupted, or diminished.

(12) All parties with appointing authority are required to appoint their respective members of the transition planning commission, which is to develop a comprehensive transition plan to be submitted to the Tennessee Department of Education for review and comments and to the Shelby County Board of Education for consideration and approval, as it deems appropriate.

(13) The City of Memphis and the Memphis City Council have no authority to oversee the Memphis City Schools during the winding up period or to oversee the transfer of administration of the Memphis City Schools to the Shelby County Board of Education.

(14) The City of Memphis has the obligation during the transition process to maintain its funding of the Memphis City Schools. All amounts owed by the City of Memphis to provide for the education of Memphis schoolchildren remain due.

(15) The Shelby County Commission lacks authority to expand the Shelby County Board of Education to twenty-five members or to create twenty-five electoral districts for positions on the Shelby County Board of Education.

(16) The Shelby County Board of Education's current electoral districts are unconstitutional. All pending motions in this case are DENIED AS MOOT. The parties who have requested injunctive relief have not established their entitlement or have couched their requests in such vague terms that relief would be inappropriate. Their injunction requests are also unnecessary given the Court's declaratory relief. See Doran v. Salem Inn, Inc., 422 U.S. 922, 930-31 (1975); United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629, 633 (1953); G. Heileman Brewing Co. v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 873 F.2d 985, 998 (7th Cir. 1989); Doe v. Stephens, 851 F.2d 1457, 1467 (D.C. Cir. 1988). Therefore, the parties' requests for injunctive relief are DENIED.

The parties are DIRECTED to submit their requests for a remedy for the constitutional violation identified in this Order by Friday, August 12, 2011.

So ordered this 8th day of August, 2011.
s/ Samuel H. Mays, Jr.
SAMUEL H. MAYS, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

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