March 17, 2011

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) – As Memphis City and Shelby County Schools prepare to move forward with a merger, Governor Bill Haslam says the transition will be an important process.

“What happens in education in Shelby County and the city of Memphis is critical not just for this area, but the entire state,” Haslam said Thursday.

Haslam’s comments came after Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell recently refused to sign a resolution passed by the County Commission on school consolidation because, Luttrell claims, commissioners failed to follow protocol.

Luttrell is following the voter route, which calls for the state of Tennessee to control the merger. However, the Shelby County Commission is following the Memphis City Council’s route, which calls for the Commission to control the merger.

“The state of Tennessee is not anticipating taking over Memphis City Schools,” Haslam said. “We are here to help. There are certain tools the state has and we intend to, wherever we can, jump in and do that.”

Signature or no signature, the Commission does plan on seating a unified school board.

“I think Section 6 of the charter of Shelby County prescribes the number of members on the Shelby County School Board, and they should adhere to their own charter,” Tennessee Senator Mark Norris said.

However, Haslam says there should be more communication on this issue.

“I think there are a lot of places where we want to engage in a discussion, and we’ll be very actively involved with both mayors, the superintendent, and the school boards,” he said. “This is too big of an issue to let it get caught up in politics.”

During the transition, a number of lawsuits are expected, which means ultimately the courts will have to clarify how the school systems can move forward.


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