Rick Masson, former CAO of Memphis, has been picked by U.S. District Judge Samuel "Hardy" Mays to be the "Special Master," overseeing the merger of Memphis and Shelby County schools.
The Special Master is a very powerful position. Rick Masson will now report directly to the judge on the progress of the merger.
Judge Mays, the federal judge who issued the consent decree, was very specific in laying out what the Special Master will do.
There are eight duties which include helping to establish a consolidated budget, assisting the board in making decisions, and reporting back to the judge with suggestions if progress is not being made.
In his order, Judge Mays wrote, "The court's purpose is to fulfill its obligation to enforce the consent decree. At a minimum, that means that, in adequate time before the beginning of the school year in 2013, students will know the school they will attend and how they will get there, have a safe and clean place to learn, have teachers prepared to teach them, and have an established curriculum."
Mays also wrote, "It means that the Shelby County Board of Education must, as soon as practicable, appoint a single superintendent with strong educational credentials, even if on an interim basis."
The Judge says if progress is not being made, Masson could be given the authority to trump the board and make decisions himself.
In accepting the job, Masson had to declare his impartiality.
Masson was Chief Administrative Officer under former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.
Herenton says Masson excelled in county wide issues, including negotiating the county wide annexation agreement, "Rick Masson was one of the great leaders, that's how we were able to get all the annexation reserve policies worked out and that involved all of the municipalities in this area. The more I think about it, what his background has been, it makes me know he is well suited for this challenging position."
Masson will be paid $250 an hour, plus expenses. The bill will be paid by Memphis City and Shelby County schools.
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