School merger could mean job cuts

(WMC-TV) – Leaders are meeting Thursday afternoon to decide how a unified school district will look and whether they will have to cut jobs.

It was another marathon session by the Unified School District Transition Planning Commission.

The commission plans to vote on the plan for merging Memphis and Shelby County schools Thursday. In the meantime, there is a debate over who should get to pick the leader of the new district.

After nine months of planning, commissioners constructing a Memphis and Shelby county school merger action plan have put off one very important step.

"We have missed the opportunity to address the anxieties of our community by not getting a superintendent selected," said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

TPC Commissioner and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell urged fellow commissioners to recommend hiring a superintendent as soon as possible before signing off on the final set of recommendations for a unified school district.

"That superintendent is going to have an enormous task ahead of him or her," said David Pickler, Transition Planning Committee.

But there was debate over who has the power to pick a leader.

"It's certainly by no means too early to bring in a superintendent at this point," said Pickler.

Martavius Jones says it is the school board's job to appoint a superintendent.

"The relationship between a superintendent and a school board is not one of equal footing, one is subservient to the other," said Jones.

He said forcing the selection of a superintendent now will disrupt the learning process for students in municipalities should they decide to start their own school districts. But the opposition was strong.

In the end, the commission voted to add language to the plan that the Shelby County Board of Education should identify and name a superintendent as soon as possible but no later than the fall of 2012.

Some commissioners suggested recommending that the school board begin a search process immediately but that suggestion did not make it into the amendment.