MEMPHIS, TN - Confusion in the wake of a vote by the Memphis City School Board to let voters decide whether or not to eliminate the school district, to give up the charter. Everyone is still trying to understand the implications, including whether the decision is even final.
It's a statement we've heard a lot over the past week from people opposing the consolidation of Memphis and Shelby County Schools: "There are a lot more questions than answers." Tuesday, answers were hard to come by.
“Many people don't have the real information,” said MCS Board President Dr. Freda Williams. “A lot of people I've talked with have a lot more questions than answers.”
Memphis City School Board members and administrators fielded our questions today, with very few answers. Questions like, what would a combined school district look like? Is Monday night's vote even final?
“That's something we'll have to discuss with our board attorney,” said Williams.
“We do need to do further analysis to see if there needs to be another affirmative step by the board before the Election Commission will take action,” said MCS Board Attorney Dorsey Hopson.
Supt. Kriner Cash says he has his own long list of questions, like does he continue to work on the budget?
“Do I do that work, or do I leave that work to Shelby County, for example,” said Cash. “These are the kinds of operational questions, and I have at least 50.”
Board member Martavius Jones who proposed the resolution to dissolve the charter, said, if the voters approve the move, it will take some time before it becomes a reality.
“Any type of transition to fully integrate both school systems I see taking no less than two years, if not longer,” said Jones.
But as for who would head up that transition team, it’s unclear.
“In terms of a transition plan, there would be no more Memphis City Schools,” said Williams. “So who would work that transition plan? So, again, these are so many things we don't know.”
The Shelby County Election Commission asked the School Board for a copy of the resolution. It will have to go before the voters within 60 days. That special election will cost about $1 million.
“We are trustees of all the children, and I regret deeply the city school board chose to take an action that I believe irresponsible,” said Shelby County School Board President David Pickler.
Pickler is bracing for what that could mean for his school system.
“We're now in a situation where Shelby County Schools, where we're going to have to identify the hundreds of questions that are going to have to be addressed,” Pickler said.
Pickler says he's been on the phone with everyone from business leaders to legislators who want to do whatever it takes to put a stop to school consolidation.
“We're going to look at every possible option,” said Pickler.
It's unclear who would take over the Memphis City Schools if the vote passes, but Pickler says the county will start preparing.
“The reality is the action taken last night, without any research or any concern for the consequences is an action that has now delegated that responsibility to the Shelby County Board of Education.”
David Pickler says the Shelby County School Board will likely hold a special meeting next week to discuss what to do in the wake of the Memphis City School Board's vote.