While plans are forging ahead this summer for joining Memphis' 140,000-student school system with the surrounding suburban district, school officials also have to take into account the possibility that the unification might be temporary.
The Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn., districts officially merged
July 1. For one year at least, the unified district will be the nation's
14th largest, and the planning for the merger has involved board
members and district leaders from both legacy systems.
The merger stemmed from the city schools' desire to be more financially stable.
"The merger gave us the opportunity to identify inefficiencies.
Our community had to come together to improve and invest in the
schools," said Kenya Bradshaw, a fellow with the Minneapolis-based
Policy Innovators in Education Network, who served on a transition planning committee for the new district.
However, several municipalities in the surrounding county will vote
next month to determine whether new school districts will be carved out
of the newly unified system starting in 2014-15. Differing racial
demographics have also emerged as an issue.
Although district officials say the system is ready to open
schools' doors in August, the possibility of those further changes has
affected the planning, said Daniel Kiel, a law professor at the
University of Memphis who also served on the transition planning
"There's so much uncertainty about whether the new municipal districts are going to exist," he said.
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