Newly merged school board, transition team meet

(WMC-TV) - The new 23-member Shelby County School Board and the separate 21-member transition commission met Wednesday at the FedEx Institute on the University of Memphis campus to talk about the challenges ahead.

"We have on opportunity to really get it right the first time," said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

Luttrell is one of 21 on the Norris-Todd Planning Commission tasked with creating a plan to merge the Memphis and Shelby County School systems into one district.

"There's going to be a huge learning curve," said Luttrell.  "We have to accelerate the learning process.  Not only are we learning as we're going, but we're learning, we're going and we're deciding."

The transition team will hand off the plan to the new merged Shelby County School Board.

"I'm anxious and I'm excited," said board member Dr. Jeff Warren.

Warren is one of the 23 members on the merged Shelby County School board.  He said the trick will be to keep two separate systems running well while simultaneously creating a bigger one.

"There will be a lot of negotiations," said Warren.  "As we try to figure out how to take the best of these two systems, making sure we improve both, not have any decrease in educational value in either one."

Warren and Luttrell said the 44 members of both bodies must ultimately work together throughout.

"We've got some good people in this transition committee," said Luttrell.

"It's going to be a democratic process where we're going to bring ideas to the table, discuss them, try to come up with the things we think will be best for the students," said Warren.

Luttrell said the next meeting will be next week.  He suspects they will meet every week and smaller subcommittees will work more often.

Wednesday's meeting provided a brief overview for the unified school board as well as the transition commission.

"You're going to have a lot of logistical things to be worked out, but you know what? Organizing is messy work," said Memphis City Schools Commissioner Betty Mallott.

Memphis City Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said he wonders if it can be done efficiently with so many possible opinions.

"In my experience, 35 years, there's a reason why there's seven member boards and nine member boards and so forth," said Cash.

Members of the unified school board will be sworn in October 3.  The first official business meeting will follow a week later.

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