MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Federal Judge Samuel Mays is putting his foot down after Thursday night's school board fiasco. He is making good on his threat to appoint someone to make decisions for the Unified School Board.
School board members can't agree on the hard decisions. That became evident Thursday night when talk of outsourcing custodial crews became so heated, one board member stormed out. Friday, the judge said "enough" and he's appointing someone who can push this thing through.
"I would hope that the board would see this as a wake up call to move forward,” said David Pickler a member of the Unified School Board.
That wake up call may happen as early as Monday. Judge Samuel Mays had a phone conference Friday morning with all the attorneys involved in the unified school district. All parties decided to finally appoint someone who's called a "special master."
"The special master's role was not to do the work of the school board but was to serve a judiciary capacity, a judge-like capacity,” said Pickler.
Four people are in the running: a retired criminal court judge and former MCS board member George Brown, and three people who have served on the Transition Planning Commission: Christine Richards, Barbara Prescott, and Staley Cates.
"It's clear though that the Transition Planning Commission is driving the process,” said Unified School Board Member Rev. Kenneth Whalum, Jr.
Judge Mays is finally stepping in because school board members take hours debating, or can't decide anything at all. Commissioner Sara Lewis was so upset Thursday night she stormed out of the meeting.
"Ya'll know who I’m talking about! You're going to be hearing from my lawyer,” she yelled. She was referring to a conversation she overheard in Las Vegas that a member of the board was making a final decision to outsource custodial workers long before the board discussed it.
Appointing a special master isn't going to be cheap. The person is expected to get paid $200 to $300 dollars an hour, maybe even more. It will come out of the school board budget, a budget that's already facing nearly a $150 million deficit.
"We don't have money to pay custodial workers but we do have money to pay special masters. Why? Because Memphis City Schools surrendered its charter,” said Whalum. “Surrender has consequences and surrenders don't dictate terms."
One of the consequences Reverend Whalum is talking about is 750 custodial jobs. The board decided to outsource those jobs. There’s no guarantee those workers will keep their jobs with a new company.