Whalum voices dissatisfaction with new board on Twitter

Rev. Kenneth Whalum
Rev. Kenneth Whalum

(WMC-TV) - One member of the new, unified Shelby County School Board is not 'on board' with the direction of the merger, and left the first official meeting of the body early.

The Reverend Kenneth Whalum Jr. said he left Monday's meeting simply because it lasted too long, and he thinks it will be impossible for a 23-member board to accomplish much of anything.

"I'm convinced that we're wasting our time, man," he said.

Whalum is often the voice of dissent, and he was disappointed with the cumbersome nature of the 23-member unified school board's first official meeting Monday night.

"We are layering a brand new bureaucracy on top of an existing bureaucracy, which is already dysfunctional," he said.

Before leaving the meeting in its third hour, Whalum aired his frustrations on Twitter.

"I think most us mean well, but none of this improves education," he wrote.

Whalum openly encouraged suburbanites to establish their own municipal districts.

Meanwhile, the newly elected unified board chairman, Billy Orgel, bragged about how coming together might change negative perceptions.

"It should give the public, particularly those who thought this was set up for failure, a notion that this could work and we have good people to make it work," Orgel said.

Whalum is not convinced.

"It's impossible to do what we're trying to do," he said. "It's impossible to create out of two dysfunctional entities a functioning entity. It's not gonna happen."

Whalum suspects there are many others on the unified board who share his opinions, but are just not as willing to express them.

Speaking to Action News 5 Tuesday, Whalum was also concerned about the board's diversity. Orgel is white, as is Dr. Jeff Warren, who was elected vice chairman.

"I say that it's hypocritical, and that it's unfortunate," Whalum said.

Whalum called it a missed opportunity to truly reflect diversity, what he said was one of the desired results of merging Memphis and Shelby County Schools. A number of African-American board members were nominated for leadership positions, as were several women.

"So, you could have at least had gender diversity, and you didn't do it," he said.

Former Shelby County school board chairman David Pickler ran Monday night's meeting.

"The 23 person school board, I think, represents incredible diversity," he said.

Despite the newly elected leadership, Pickler believes the entire board properly reflects the population it represents.

"The populous of Memphis and Shelby County can be very confident that all aspects of this community will be represented very well," he said.

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