Luttrell to Unified Schools: Show me budget - Mid-South News, Weather, Traffic and Sports | FOX13

Luttrell to Unified Schools: Show me budget

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

He is not a man given to panic.

Perhaps it comes from Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell's previous experience managing correctional institutions where criminal minds challenge the penal system that's based on rigid rules of order.

That's why for a man steeped in organized approaches to problems the current woes of the divided unified school board are that much more perplexing.

MORE: SCS suspends superintendent search

Exactly 60 days and the clock is ticking on the fractious unified school board.

"I kind of was expecting to see a tote board up there with that sort of countdown clock to demonstrate sort of a sense of urgency," said Rick Masson, school merger special master. "What the judge hopes for you all to do and the staff as well is to make decisions."

July 1 is the appointed date when the court-ordered merger of Memphis City and Shelby County Schools is suppose to completed. But, a hopeful process, which began with the creation of the Transition Planning Commission 2.5 years ago has painfully deteriorated into what appears to be a hopeless morass, crippled by personal agendas, racial polarization and petty politics.

An uncertainty that's eroding confidence in those who once believed Memphis and Shelby County could realistically and successfully assume a leadership role by adapting to the changing face of the area's educational needs.

"I'm afraid if we merge under the uncertainty that we have then we're going to have a less than world class school system," Mayor Luttrell said.

With the latest effort to delay the merger defiantly voted down by school board members Tuesday evening, some thorny issues such as custodial services and school bus transportation were resolved. It was enough for school board member Martavius Jones to sound a clarion call to push forward.

"By us having the majority, practically all of the TPC's recommendations approved, I don't see the wisdom in postponing this because we still have the responsibility of educating," Jones said. "Let's keep the focus on those children that we will have."

But as Mayor Luttrell notes, while some progress has been made two major decisions that define the credibility of any school system - leadership through the appointment of a permanent superintendent and the continued glaring failure of the board to forward a budget to a county government that's been asking to be presented with one since January - remain woefully unfulfilled.

"The responsibility is still on the school board to tell us what they need and then to come in and make a compelling argument for it," the mayor said. "There's still time to work through this. But, the window is getting daily a little bit more narrow."

Yet, Luttrell is not among the growing number of people questioning the effectiveness of Masson. Luttrell said the two are working together to find ways to break through the board's impasse on remaining issues.

"We're continuing those discussions to see if there's some way that we can move the needle, leverage, on some of these issues in a way that we can starting building a consensus," Mayor Luttrell said.

All of this, in the face of a gathering public consensus that with the board's current track record on decision making, developing a world class school system is becoming no more than a pipe dream.  

Masson seemed to hint he and federal Judge Samuel "Hardy" Mays, Jr., might chop down the number of school board members if they fall behind in making progress on the merger completion.

 

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