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Education NewsTracker

In Memphis Merger, Here Comes the Judge

A judge has decided to personally mediate the talks between governments over the consolidation of the Memphis and Shelby County school systems, talks that one party has described as futile.

U.S. District Judge Samuel Hardy Mays ordered the Shelby County Schools, Shelby County Commission, Memphis City Schools, Memphis City Council, city of Memphis and state Department of Education to appear today, indicating that he would handle the talks directly after a court-appointed mediator failed to make headway, the Commercial Appeal reports.

Steve Mulroy, a county commissioner and law professor at the University of Memphis, said judicial mediation enhances the “arm-twisting” ability of a judge. The judge can signal strongly that he’s inclined to rule a particular way in order to nudge one or both parties from their stalemated positions.

The parties disagree over the process for merging the two systems. The city, council and commission seek an expanded county school board now, while Shelby County Schools favors a plan passed by the legislature and keeping the Memphis City Schools board as-is until the consolidation process is completed.

County Commissioner Walter Bailey, who represents the commission in the mediation, said the talks so far have been “futile.”

“If this new mediation process does not work Mays’ first order of business would be to decide whether to let the commission move ahead with appointments or grant an injunction sought by five of the seven county school board members to keep the appointment process on hold,” the Memphis Daily News reports.

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Education NewsTracker

Shelby County Commissioners Spatting Over Merger Secrets

Shelby County commissioners can’t withhold documents from a fellow commissioner, who has created political enemies there by opposing their plan to enlarge the county school board as it absorbs the Memphis school system.

That’s according to an opinion from the county attorney’s office recounted today in the Commercial Appeal.

Commissioners voted 8-1 early this month for a resolution allowing them to reprimand or withhold written information from anyone who spills secrets.

A violator would still be able to attend confidential meetings with the commission’s lawyers.

The obvious target was (Commissioner Terry Roland), who walked out of a closed-door meeting with attorneys in February and told waiting reporters what was going on.