How lucky is 13 when it comes to a school board? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

How lucky is 13 when it comes to a school board?

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

When it comes to the number of school board members and their effectiveness we know a majority of nine can dissolve a school system.

We know seven can hold onto their positions like bulldogs.

We know 23 is the educational equivalent of shooting snake eyes in a casino.

So how lucky does 13 make you feel?

MORE: Shelby County Schools suspends superintendent search

As he trudged toward another school merger lawsuit hearing in front of Judge Mays, Memphis attorney Leo Bearman, looked world-weary. He's been providing legal counsel to the county commission for nearly three well-paid years.

Yet, considering the train wreck the Unified School board appears headed for and the legislative go-ahead given to the statewide creation of municipal school districts, isn't continuing the lawsuit reaching the point of being, dare we say frivolous?

"Nah, this is not irrelevant," said bearman. "All of this is important. It's important in the long run. It's important for the kids. That's what we're talking about."

It was the relevancy of Judge Mays' 2011 consent decree giving the Shelby County Commission the option to expand the school board which was up for debate among the lawyers on Tuesday. The core argument was over whether the commission's decision to expand the school board to 13 members by Sept. 1 of this year should be approved by Mays.

It would give the power to commissioners to appoint six members to go along with the seven elected members who retain their positrons after July 1. Attorneys representing the State, the Shelby County Schools and suburban municipalities fear expanding the board can only lead to political manipulation.

"We been talking 13 for a long time," said Commissioner Mike Ritz. "All the parties to the consent decree agreed with 13 and now some of them want a second bite of the apple."

"You put six more on there appointed by the county commission, who have done everything that it possibly could to stop the suburban municipalities from going forward," added Tom Cates, county suburbs attorney. "Seems rational that those six might be influenced by the people that appointed them."

Though Judge Mays didn't embrace Cate's conspiratorial theory, he did express concerns appointments might disenfranchise constituents as opposed to holding an election for the positions. But, Mays was taken aback when told, with an estimated cost of $425,000, the earliest the Shelby County Election Commission could stage the vote would be Dec. 5, 2013.

"What we've been told is that in order to make sure that this process is done correctly we need to give the IT people enough time to make sure that everybody's in the right district," said John Ryder, Shelby County Election Commission legal counsel."

But, is the commission really tied to 13 as the eventual number of  school board members? Even they admit, merger or not, smaller stands a better chance to succeed.

"Does anybody that has followed this situation think that 23 members on a board has been a paragon of efficiency?," Cates questioned.

"It may not be 13 forever, but it's the best place to start," added Commissioner Ritz.

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